Donald Trump Soured on a Deal, and Hong Kong Partners Became Litigants

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Donald J. Trump, who has made reversing America’s trade imbalance a pillar of his campaign, often portrays himself as uniquely capable of wringing concessions out of China through hard-nosed business tactics he has honed over the years.

In fact, he says, he has a personal track record to back up his boasts.

“I beat China all the time,” Mr. Trump declared in a speech the day he announced his candidacy. “I own a big chunk of the Bank of America building at 1290 Avenue of the Americas that I got from China in a war. Very valuable.”

Mr. Trump does have an investment in the building, an office tower near Rockefeller Center. But court documents and interviews with people involved in the deal tell a very different story of how he ended up with it.

It began when a group of Hong Kong billionaires, including one who has been…

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