WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence charged Thursday that China is interfering in next month’s US mid-term elections by trying to derail Farm Belt support for President Donald Trump.
One week after Trump accused Beijing of interfering in the US election process, Pence gave a hardline speech in which he criticized the measures that China is taking in the political, economic and military realms, and he made clear the growing tensions between the two countries, which since July have been immersed in an aggressive trade war.
“President Trump’s leadership is working; and China wants a different American president,” said Pence in a speech to the Hudson Institute studies center.
The vice president tried to provide a solid basis for Trump’s recent accusation that China is interfering in the Nov. 6 mid-term election process, a claim that the Chinese government has said was unjustified.
“Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policy,” said Pence.
Pence described that campaign by Beijing as “an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections,” when Trump will seek a second term.
“What the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country. And the American people deserve to know it,” said the vice president, referring to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.
Last week, Trump accused China of using propaganda to attack the US Farm Belt, which includes the states of Iowa and Illinois, where many farmers have been harmed by the tariffs Beijing imposed on US soybeans within the context of the bilateral trade war.
“More than 80 percent of U.S. counties targeted by China voted for President Trump and (me) in 2016; now China wants to turn these voters against our administration,” said Pence.
The White House has provided no proof of Chinese interference beyond emphasizing that the Chinese Communist Party last month bought four pages of advertising in the Des Moines Register and argued there that Trump’s trade war was harming Iowa agriculture.
“Our message to China’s rulers is this: This president will not back down. The American people will not be swayed. And we will continue to stand strong for our security and our economy, even as we hope for improved relations with Beijing,” he said.
The vice president also delivered that message on the military level, referring to the incident last Sunday in the South China Sea when a Chinese warship closely approached the USS Decatur, a US Arleigh-Burke class destroyer carrying cruise missiles.
“The United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” said Pence.