On August, 19, 2011, during the heat of the Obama Administration’s trade negotiations with China, Vice President Joe Biden huddled with his top trade advisors at the St. Regis Hotel in Beijing, China. One seat away from Mr. Biden sat Robert Roche.
Mr. Roche is a mysterious figure, an American expatriate and Obama bundler living in Shanghai, China. Mr. Roche’s company, Acorn International, is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange and is in partnership with Hu Jintao’s government.
The importance of this partnership was exemplified at the 2011 State Dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao (above), where something rare and virtually unprecedented in American politics occurred.
Three living presidents -Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter- all attended the event and were seated at the head table. Also seated at the power table were Sen. John Kerry and his billionaire wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry; General Electric chief Jeffrey Immelt; Coca Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Joining them was Robert Roche--a man whose inconsequential infomercial business hawks everything from cell phones, to exercise equipment, to breast enhancement products. Telegraphing his influence, Mr. Roche received the most coveted honor of all, a seat just one seat away from President Obama. Left in the cheap seats were former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and numerous other titans of politics, finance, and business with billions of dollars in assets in China, including JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, CEO of Disney Robert Iger, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. How does a person like Roche--of such little consequence--rate a seat at the power table of the decade? Simple: it was to give Mr. Roche “face” in front of Chinese senior officials--the most valuable currency in Asia...