With Trump Name Unspoken, Kushners Seek Investors in Shanghai

Like many American firms that come to China looking for money, Kushner Companies on Sunday tried to woo a Shanghai audience with promises of potentially big returns and a path toward living in the United States.

But for Bi Ting, who attended the event, part of the appeal was political: Jared Kushner is the son-in-law of — and a powerful adviser to — President Trump. Virtually unheard-of in China just months ago, he is now known here as a deeply influential figure in American politics. Though Mr. Kushner has said that he has stepped back from the day-to-day operations of the family business, filings show he and Ivanka Trump, his wife and the president’s daughter, continue to benefit from Kushner Companies’ real estate and investment businesses.

“The Trump relationship is an extra point for me,” Ms. Bi stated, adding that she and her husband had not decided whether to invest.

The Kushner Companies’ China roadshow, promoting $500,000 investments in New Jersey real estate as the path to a residency card in the United States, moved to Shanghai on Sunday after a similar pitch on Saturday in Beijing. Security was tighter in Shanghai than it had been in Beijing, where reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post briefly attended the event before being kicked out.

The Shanghai event, at the opulent Four Seasons Hotel, was patrolled by burly security guards who screened those in attendance and kept journalists outside, in an elevator lobby. The organizers had refused on Saturday to permit late registration as word spread of the Beijing event. One guard at the Shanghai event was heard saying that at least some of the participants would be leaving through a private back exit.

But some who attended described an investor pitch similar to the one in Beijing, and Mr. Trump’s political power was palpable at the Shanghai event even if his name went unsaid. On Saturday in Beijing, one slide presented to the Shanghai audience on Sunday showed a photo of Mr. Trump when describing who will decide the future of the American visa program for foreign investors, according to a snapshot taken by an audience member.

While the Trump connection piqued the interest of many people in attendance, such events soliciting investors for projects in the United States are not unusual in China. The American EB-5 visa program awards foreign investors the right to live in the United States for two years and a path to permanent residency, in exchange for investments of at least $500,000 in American development projects. A bright red line near the top of the posters in the Four Seasons lobby prominently mentioned EB-5 visas.

About three-quarters of the roughly 10,000 investor visas issued last year went to Chinese nationals.

Many in China begin looking for overseas residency and passports after they have children. They fear the effects of smog on their children’s lungs — the smog was heavy in Shanghai on Sunday, and an internationally comparable index of air quality showed that the pollution was seven times the level in New York City.

Many families likewise consider overseas schools to be preferable to China’s, where ferocious academic competition keeps children doing homework until late at night even in elementary school, in preparation for a national college entrance exam that means riches or ruin.

“I want my child to live in a relatively relaxed environment,” said Ms. Bi, who is 34 and expecting her first child, “where he or she could be himself or herself and lead a diverse life, instead of having no choice but to take the college entrance exam in China.”

Still, she stated, investing in the Kushner project would not give her and her husband enough time to get to the United States before her baby was born.

Many people here worry that the window for obtaining an EB-5 visa may be closing. Though he has softened his language considerably in recent weeks, Mr. Trump was a vociferous critic of China during his presidential campaign and has said he will take a tough line on immigration. Though he did not take aim at investors in real estate projects.

The Kushner project promoted to Chinese investors, called Kushner 1, includes two towers and nearly 1,500 luxury apartments, with construction to start early next year.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com