Trump at U.N. accuses China of meddling in U.S. elections
President Donald Trump on Wednesday used his prominent perch chairing a United Nations meeting to accuse China of meddling in U.S. elections — a striking assertion at a meeting billed as focusing on non-proliferation.
“Regrettably we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration,” the president said at a U.N. Security Council gathering he was chairing on stopping the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons.
The reason for the meddling, according to the president, is Beijing’s response to the $200 billion tariffs on Chinese goods Trump recently implemented. The president has said China is intentionally going after U.S. farmers in the trade war through their agricultural export tariffs.
“They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade. And we are winning on trade. We are winning at every level. We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election,” the president said.
Cameras caught China’s stone-faced representative reacting to the remarks with a slight shrug.
The accusation is just the latest in a tense back-and-forth between the U.S. and China over numerous disputed issues, which also include Beijing’s economic backing of North Korea and Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, which Beijing supports.
Trump’s election meddling comments echoed recent remarks by White House national security adviser John Bolton, who pointed the finger at China without giving concrete evidence of Beijing’s interference with U.S. elections.
“I can say definitively that it’s a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling that we’re taking steps to try to prevent it,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Trump has also tweeted about the issue: “China has openly stated that they are actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me,” he wrote last month. “What China does not understand is that these people are great patriots and fully understand that China has been taking advantage of the United States on Trade for many years. They also know that I am the one that knows how to stop it.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a senior Trump administration official held a short background briefing call with reporters to expound on Trump’s complaints. The official reiterated the allegations that China was deploying its trade policy to target American farmers in Trump-supporting districts and states.
But the official also went on to list a litany of other concerns about Chinese activities, such as Beijing’s use of propaganda and the pressure it puts on academics, journalists and even movie studios to toe the state line.
It was not always clear how the various accusations were linked to U.S. elections, but the official said the Trump administration will soon declassify more data about such Chinese activities. The official also said Vice President Mike Pence plans to deliver a speech in the coming days that expands on U.S. concerns about China injecting itself in American democracy.
China has rejected the accusations of election interference.
Earlier this month, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “Anyone who has some knowledge of China’s diplomacy will know that we will not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs.”