BEIJING — China has rejected accusations from President Donald Trump that Beijing is meddling in the upcoming U.S. elections, with some Chinese media calling the suggestion “crazy talk” and others noting the remarks were just “campaign strategy.”
Trump made the rare and very public accusations Wednesday during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. After which, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave a swift rebuttal, denying that China interferes in the “internal affairs of any country.”
During a regular briefing in Beijing with reporters on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang echoed those remarks. He also said the international community knows which country interferes the most in other countries affairs.
“We advise the United States to stop this unceasing criticism and slander of China,” Geng said. “Stop these wrong words and deeds that damage bilateral relations and the basic interests of both countries’ peoples.”
In his remarks, Trump said China is targeting his supporters because “they do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”
A loud rebuttal in the communist party backed Global Times on Thursday argued that the White House and Trump has only itself to blame, calling the accusations a “creative campaign strategy.”
In an article entitled “Trump’s ‘blame China’ midterm strategy won’t secure GOP victory,” the Global Times said: “The White House needs to be up front with its own party and explain that the more intense the trade war becomes, the more Republicans will find themselves the targets of China’s retaliation.”
The editorial went on to say that his position on trade with China is something that could hurt the president’s party in the upcoming mid-term elections and his aspirations for re-election in 2020.
On Twitter, which is blocked in China, the newspaper’s editor, Hu Xijin, wrote: “@realDonaldTrump, you are using China issue to assist your campaign. Previous presidents all wanted China to buy more from states that supported them to help them reelected. Did that constitute China interfering in US elections?”
During a briefing to White House reporters Wednesday afternoon, a senior administration official said Beijing has been using “political, economic, commercial, military and informational tools to benefit the interest of the Chinese Communist Party” in ways that go beyond how countries normally engage with each other.
On Wednesday, Trump also said in a posting online: “China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, made to look like news.”
China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, made to look like news. That’s because we are beating them on Trade, opening markets, and the farmers will make a fortune when this is over! pic.twitter.com/ppdvTX7oz1
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2018
In China, some headlines in official media contrasted what they called Trump’s “crazy talk and accusations” with the “indifference” of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Commentaries for that story, however, did not all follow in lockstep. Some noted their surprise and disagreement with a decision by the China Daily to place advertisements in newspapers in the Des Moines Register and other papers.
“China placing ads in American newspapers, can the U.S. do the same in China?” one user asked.
The United States launched a second wave of tariffs on Chinese imports Monday, putting a levy on some $200 billion in products from China. In response, Beijing targeted $60 billion products of its own.
The likelihood of the two holding talks to negotiate their way out of the current trade standoff seems increasingly unlikely. Earlier this week, China said it was impossible to hold talks with the United States while Washington is imposing tariffs that are like holding a knife to someone’s throat.
Beijing has rarely discussed its contribution to the current stalemate, placing most of the blame on Washington. Its offers to remedy the trade frictions so far have focused largely on the purchase of American goods and less on policy issues such as government subsidies and forced technology transfers in joint ventures.
China denies it is forcing companies to hand over technology in exchange for access. On Wednesday, China announced that it would be lowering tariffs on another 1,500 goods from 9 percent to around 7.8 percent.
President Trump has already warned that an additional $267 billion in tariffs could follow if China retaliates against farmers or other industries. It was not immediately clear whether Trump’s accusations at the U.N. meant that further tariffs – which would effectively cover all goods imported from China – would soon follow.
What is clear, some analysts note, is that both sides are increasingly unlikely to budge.
“The US has had a maximum pressure policy on North Korea, Iran and now it is doing the same with China,” said Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based economist. “China will and is pushing forward reforms but on its own terms and at its own pace and that will never be enough (for the United States).”