But there he was in Beijing, bearing an unlikely gift for a man who might open China to a freelancer known for his band of private contractors. It was a copy of his Blackwater memoir, “Civilian Warriors.’’
With that 2013 introduction to Chang Zhenming, chairman of China’s powerful CITIC investment conglomerate, Prince gained entry to a lucrative new market -- and, now, new controversy.
Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has made no secret about his ambitions in China. But since he became chairman of Frontier Services Group in Hong Kong five years ago, CITIC, his mainland benefactor, has slowly cemented its grip on the firm. Prince stepped down as FSG Chairman in December to make way for a new boss from the conglomerate, which has amassed a bigger stake than Prince’s 9 percent. "Xinjiang has appeared in FSG’s company filings since it unveiled plans in 2016 for a "forward operating base" there to serve businesses in surrounding countries.
Critics are unmoved. The Xinjiang ceremony is more evidence that Prince is “serving the national interest of China, which competes directly with the U.S.,” said Sean McFate, a National Defense University professor who once built a private army in Liberia while working for U.S. military contractor DynCorp International.
CITIC, for its part, has already been tightening its grip on FSG. In December, CITIC’s Chang replaced Prince as chairman. Prince is now one of three deputy chairmen, along with Ko and Luo Ning, a CITIC executive and graduate of the People’s Liberation Army Institute of Communication Command. FSG last year raised $107 million via CITIC and other investors. The Chinese company now owns 26 percent of FSG.
Prince, the son of the late billionaire industrialist Edgar Prince, sold a rebranded version of Blackwater back in 2010, but he has other business interests. He runs a private equity commodities firm called Frontier Resource Group, that’s raising $500 million to mine metals in Africa and Asia to provide materials for electric cars.