‘Malicious Slander’: Beijing Hits Back at Pence Accusations of Election Meddling

By Patrick Goodenough | October 5, 2018 | 4:17 AM EDT

The China Daily-produced 'ChinaWatch' supplement that appeared in the Des Moines Register on September 23, 2018. (Photo: CNSNews.com)

(CNSNews.com) – Beijing reacted angrily early Friday to Vice President Mike Pence’s accusations that the communist government is “meddling” in U.S. domestic politics, calling the claims unjustified and slanderous.

Pence’s speech, said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, “made unwarranted accusations against China's domestic and foreign policies and slandered China by claiming that China meddles in U.S. internal affairs and elections.”

“This is nothing but speaking on hearsay evidence, confusing right and wrong and creating something out of thin air. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it.

In thinly-veiled criticism of Trump administration policies, Hua said the international community already knows “fully well who wantonly infringes upon others’ sovereignty, interferes in others’ internal affairs and undermines others’ interests. Any malicious slander on China is futile.”

Chairing a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York last week, President Trump said that “China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election.”

“They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade,” he added.

Addressing the Hudson Institute on Thursday, Pence repeated and expanded on the allegation, charging that China was “meddling in America’s democracy.”

“China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections,” he said. “To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working; and China wants a different American president.”

Pence quoted from a Chinese government document which he said had been circulated last June, laying out its strategy and saying must “strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups” in the U.S.

According to the U.S. intelligence community, he said, “China is targeting U.S. state and local governments and officials to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy.”

Pence cited a senior U.S. intelligence official as telling him that “what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.”

One example of China’s evident attempts to sway voters was the publication last week of a paid insert – produced by the state-run China Daily – in the Des Moines Register, “designed to look like the news articles, cast our trade policies as reckless and harmful to Iowans.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Pence also:

--said Beijing has put in place “a whole-of-government approach to advance its influence and benefit its interests,” using its power to interfere in the U.S. policies. “The Chinese Communist Party is rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials.”

--accused Chinese security agencies of masterminding “the wholesale theft of American technology.”

--said Beijing has ramped up military spending in a bid to erode U.S. advantages on land and sea, in the air and in space, pointing to its behavior in the South China Sea in particular, and saying the Chinese would like nothing less than to push the U.S. out of the western Pacific “and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies.”

--criticized the regime for violations of religious freedom and other abuses against its own people.

---said China was expanding its influence in the developing world by offering governments huge infrastructure loans with terms that “are opaque at best, and the benefits invariably flow overwhelmingly to Beijing.”

--slammed China for supporting the “corrupt and incompetent Maduro regime in Venezuela” and for persuading small Latin American countries to jettison diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. (Photo: Foreign Ministry PRC)

In her statement responding to the speech, Hua of the foreign ministry extolled China’s ideology and progress, and characterized it as a stable and peace-loving nation.

“No one can stop the Chinese people from steadfastly marching ahead along the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and making greater achievements,” she said. “The efforts made by anyone to distort the facts are doomed to be in vain.”

Hua described China as a “builder of world peace, contributor to world development and defender of the international order.”

In response to Pence’s accusations about “debt diplomacy,” she said Beijing’s economic and diplomatic activities worldwide were “widely welcomed by other countries” and that China would not advance its own development at the expense of other nations’ interests.

And reacting to Pence’s statements about Chinese influence operations, Hua said it was “ridiculous for the U.S. side to stigmatize its normal exchanges and cooperation with China as China interfering in its internal affairs and elections.”

“China always follows the principle of non-interference in others’ internal affairs and we have no interest in meddling in U.S. internal affairs and elections.”

‘Credibility’

Earlier this year, a study by two Germany-based think tanks examined China’s influence operations in Europe, and among other things looked at “ChinaWatch,” the China Daily-produced insert which Pence noted was published in the Iowa paper last week – and which also makes appearances in media outlets in at least five European countries.

The report by the Global Public Policy Institute and the Mercator Institute for China Studies said packaging the material in that way potentially benefits China because the established newspapers “have more credibility with local audiences than Chinese [state/party] media.”

“While ChinaWatch carries a disclaimer marking it as paid content, its layout makes it look like editorial content,” said the report. “Combined with the fact that ChinaWatch covers current events, it could easily be mistaken for a part of the paper in which it is carried.”

The authors also suggested that, despite media outlets claims to the contrary, running the supplements could create “dependencies” and “the potential to influence content in the parent publication.”


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow