President Joe Biden’s D.C.-based think tank operated by the University of Pennsylvania reportedly held a two-day “bootcamp” last year during which congressional staffers were urged to support greater cooperation between the United States and China. 

The Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement has become the subject of heightened public attention in light of revelations earlier this month that Biden, who used the establishment as his main D.C. office, kept classified federal documents there. 

For many foreign-policy observers, the discovery of those documents has raised security concerns in light of the influx of Chinese money into Penn since the think tank’s creation in 2017. In the three years after the center was founded and Biden became a Penn professor, donations and contract payments from China-based corporations and research institutions totaled over $60 million — triple the amount that came in during the three prior years. 

According to a report in the Washington Free Beacon, no security personnel was deployed to monitor the conference which took place in June 2022; Penn employees staffed the event, and congressional aides could use office space within the 13,800-square-foot Constitution Avenue facility. 

Bootcamp attendees heard from speakers including Penn law and political science professor Jacques deLisle, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) scholar Jude Blanchette and former Obama White House China specialist Ryan Hass. CSIS co-organized the event along with Penn’s Center for the Study of Contemporary China and the Penn Project on the Future of U.S.-China Relations. Topics reportedly discussed at the bootcamp included U.S-China cooperation on renewable energy and academic research.

Among the advisory board members of the Penn Project on the Future of U.S.-China Relations is Kaiser Kuo, who once served as spokesman for the Beijing-based internet and artificial-intelligence technology firm Baidu. Kuo now serves as editor at large of the China Project, a U.S.-based webzine formerly known as SupChina. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) have been seeking to register the media outlet as a “foreign agent” based on allegations that it acts at the behest of the communist Chinese government. 

Rubio and Smith began looking into the China Project after former reporter Shannon Van Sant went to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, charging that editors directed writers to produce content favorable to the regime in Beijing. She further stated that Kuo told SupChina staff he believed that the American government fomented pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. 

While there is no indication Kuo himself addressed congressional staffers at last year’s event, he did speak at the university’s campus on a panel during the 2020 Penn China Research Symposium, which “highlight[ed] China-related research from across the University,” according to a university newsletter. 

The June 2022 bootcamp is one of the last activities publicly known to have taken place at the Penn Biden Center, which no longer lists any staff or leadership on its webpage and which has not made any announcements or social media updates since last May.

Since restricted federal documents were found at the center last November, the scandal has only grown insofar as more classified records turned up in Biden’s Delaware home and his garage this month. Biden declared he has “no regrets” regarding this matter, though some Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), have characterized the misappropriation of documents as inexcusable.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Joe Biden” by Joe Biden. Background Photo “Joe Biden” by Penn Biden Center.