Despite a series of reports that Secretary of Labor-designate Elaine Chao, formerly an Asian studies expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, has significant personal and business ties to communist China, little if any opposition to her nomination is expected on Capitol Hill.

“It’s safe to assume this will be a one-day hearing,” a spokesman for the Senate Health Education and Labor Committee said on Monday.

In a series of WND reports, sources said Chao — wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and her father, James S.C. Chao, have a close personal friendship with Jiang Zemin, the president of China.

Also, last week, WND reported: “A review of financial assets held over the past six years by Elaine L. Chao and her husband, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, reveals that the labor secretary-designate serves as director of an insurance company that jointly owns a Lippo Group subsidiary with the Chinese government.”

Other sources insist Chao was instrumental in the firing of a former Sino military analyst — Richard Fisher Jr. — from the Heritage Foundation after 16 years because of his “anti-China” military and political analyses — a charge which Heritage officials deny and one that Fisher himself would not discuss.

Nevertheless, despite the questions raised by Chao’s and her husband’s past dealings and associations, little protest awaits her on Capitol Hill — certainly nothing of the kind of partisan attacks suffered by Attorney General-designate John Ashscroft through four days of rancorous hearings last week.

Sources yesterday said the lack of opposition was most likely due to the fact that McConnell served as President George W. Bush’s inaugural chairman, and other senators — including Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. — “won’t want to raise the Chinagate issue” for fear of a backlash against Democrats who supported former President Bill Clinton’s questionable Chinagate connections and dealings.

Chao’s nomination hearing is set to begin this morning around 9:30 a.m. Eastern in the Senate’s Dirksen Room 106.

Related stories:

Elaine Chao’s ties to Chinese leader

Pro-China coup at Heritage?

Chao has biz ties to Lippo

Dissident Wu ‘very surprised’ at Chao pick

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