By Michael Hernandez
Vice President Mike Pence charged China on Thursday with conducting a sweeping campaign aimed at meddling in the America’s internal politics, and undermining U.S. President Donald Trump.
China, Pence said, “has mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies”.
“What the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country,” Pence added, referring to what U.S. intelligence agencies determined to be Moscow’s “influence campaign” during the 2016 White House race.
“And the American people deserve to know it,” he added.
The comments follow Trump’s announcement last week at the UN that China is seeking to interfere in the U.S.’s midterm elections slated for early November.
Trump alleged Beijing does “not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”
Pence outlined the alleged efforts before the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, saying it includes overt efforts including placing ads in U.S. newspapers, as well as more subtle maneuvers.
“Senior Chinese officials have also tried to influence business leaders to encourage them to condemn our trade actions, leveraging their desire to maintain their operations in China,” Pence said. “In one recent example, China threatened to deny a business license for a major U.S. corporation if they refused to speak out against our administration’s policies.”
He did not specify which company he was referring to or when the alleged incident took place, but added that amid a trade war with Washington, Beijing has targeted more than 80 percent of its retaliatory tariffs on key constituencies for Trump and the Republican Party.
“China wants to turn these voters against our administration,” Pence said. “Fortunately, Americans aren’t buying it.”
Beyond the political sphere, Pence charged China with continuing to engage in unfair business practices in order to build up a domestic manufacturing base at the expense of rivals.
“The Chinese Communist Party has also used an arsenal of policies inconsistent with free and fair trade, including tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and industrial subsidies doled out like candy, to name a few,” he said.
Pence accused China of directing bureaucrats and business leaders to obtain U.S. intellectual property “by any means necessary,” and warned other nations to avoid doing business with Beijing because of its policy of “debt diplomacy.”
Pence also took umbrage with China’s development of artificial military island outposts in the South China Sea where he said “Beijing has deployed advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles,” but insisted Washington will not curtail its operations in international waters
“China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies,” he said. “The United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated and we will not stand down.”