When I saw the headline, I was momentarily encouraged to think that China had finally learned to play the Washington game. But, aside from Patton Boggs having been hired by the embassy, on close reading, there is almost nothing here except the usual inability to distinguish Hong Kong from China, private companies (including Hong Kong companies) from state-owned companies, state-owned companies from state-controlled companies, companies of all sorts from governments, and so forth.
A lot of this also seems to be CNOOC-related. I won't belabor why that wasn't the Chinese state in action, having posted on the subject recently. Did the Chinese embassy do much for CNOOC? Nope. Did the members of the so-described formidable lobbying machine at the US China Business Council do anything for it? Nope. (And the Chevron folks considered Akin Gump's performance on behalf of CNOOC to have been one of the most inept performances in living memory.)
When you do the math, it looks like almost all of the $19 million figure for cumulative lobbying expenditure "on behalf of China" since 1997, is Hong Kong-generated or related. And to put the figure in perspective, over $3 billion is spent annually on lobbying activities in this town. (I don't know how much of that is foreign government-related.) This goes a long way toward explaining why our government decision-making processes are generally considered by international investors and businessfolk to be both venal and corrupt, producing the best government policy decisions money can buy.
As for why a lobbying or public relations firm might assist in arranging a meeting between an ambassador and a senator or member of Congress, there are multiple reasons in addition to venality of the US system described above. These are very well understood in Taipei. Beijing may be beginning to understand them.
Why shoud foreign government hire a lobbyist? To ally the foreign ambassador or appear to ally him to a US domestic interest with the ability to make campaign contributions or otherwise affect electoral realities. To advise the ambassador on the pet peeves and domestic political circumstances and agendas of the congresscritter in question so as to facilitate flattery, concrete gestures with possible impact on the electorate in question, or arrange a pseudo-event at which the congresscritter can claim credit for one his/her district's companies having made a sale to the country represented by the lobbyist. To do research on the congresscritter so as to expose duplicity, where and when it exists, as it almost always does. To set the stage for making arguments in the American vernacular that the foreign ambassador cannot make. To get the foreign ambassador into meetings and to obtain a hearing for his/her case that would otherwise be refused. And so forth.
Think of it this way. What would an American embassy be like without local employees? In handling the world of the Hill, in particular, one is well-advised to use the former inmates to deal with currently ensconced ones. Only those whose worldview consists of the political realities within the Beltway plus the local precincts in -- say -- Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is likely to be able to communicate with the greedy madmen who represent that place. Or so the sales pitch goes. And there's something to it. Please recall that Mark Twain described the US Congress as the closest thing to a native American criminal class.
I await instruction and consignment to reform through labor by the lictors, led by [Name redacted by TWS].