President-elect George W. Bush’s choice to head the Labor Department, Elaine Chao, and her father have extensive personal ties to communist China’s President Jiang Zemin — contact described as “regular” and “deep,” WorldNetDaily has learned.

According to an Asian affairs expert who spoke on condition of anonymity, Chao — whom Bush selected to head the Labor Department after his first choice, Linda Chavez, withdrew from consideration over charges she harbored an illegal alien in 1992 — allegedly characterized as “racist” the findings of a May 1999 report on Chinese espionage, released by a select committee chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif.

The Sino expert told WND the relationship with Jiang stems from Ms. Chao’s father, James S. C. Chao, who attended college with the Chinese president before fleeing for Taiwan in 1949, in advance of the communist government takeover of the mainland.

“They have continued a sort of university friendship ever since,” the expert said.

Chao’s father resides in New York City and, years ago, founded a ship brokerage and agency business, Foremost Maritime Corp. — a lucrative shipping firm that ships goods from the U.S. to China and much of Asia.

“To do this would require one having friends in high places,” or “Guanxi” (the Chinese term for political connections), the source told WorldNetDaily. “The real story here is that Ms. Chao’s father — and most likely herself — has been a family friend of the leaders of communist China for practically all of her life.”

When asked if Chao has had any contact at all with Jiang, the expert said, “Absolutely.”

And, the source added, “it’s kept very quiet, but it’s probably regular contact.”

If confirmed, said the Asia expert, “she would come into [Bush’s] Cabinet with a more intimate relationship with the president of China than with the president of the United States.”

“During the furor of the Cox report, she was out there, leading protests against it and criticized it as ‘racist,'” the source said.

Calls were made to the Bush transition team headquarters for comment but were not returned. Also, WorldNetDaily contacted the Heritage Foundation for comment without success.

A spokesman from Cox’s office told WorldNetDaily he had never heard of Chao’s criticism and denied any knowledge of her or her father’s connection to Jiang.

Ms. Chao, 47, a Taiwanese immigrant, is the former chairman of the Heritage Foundation’s Asia Studies Center Advisory Council and a distinguished fellow at the conservative think tank. She once served as deputy secretary of the Transportation Department under the president-elect’s father, President George Bush, and also served as chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission. She became director of the Peace Corps in 1991 and led the United Way of America from 1992-1996.

Married to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Chao is said to be on the fast track to Senate confirmation.

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