It’s baaaaaaack! The Russia collusion thing, I mean. Only this time, with an important difference.
On top of charges that Moscow is monkeying around with November’s U.S. elections to ensure a Trump victory, and that the President and his aides are doing nothing to fend of this threat to the integrity of the nation’s politics, Democrats and their supporters are now dismissing claims administration about Chinese meddling as alarmism at best and diversionary at worst.
In the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, commenting on recent testimony from U.S. intelligence officials spotlighting both countries’ efforts, to “give some equivalence” of China and Russia on interference efforts “doesn’t really tell the story.
She continued, “The Chinese, they said, prefer [presumptive Democratic nominee Joe] Biden — we don’t know that, but that’s what they’re saying, but they’re not really getting involved in the presidential election.” ,
The Mainstream Media, as is so often the case, echoed this Democratic talking point. According to The New York Times‘ Robert Draper (author most recently of a long piece in the paper’s magazine section on Mr. Trump’s supposed refusal to approve anti-Russia interference measures or take seriously such findings by the intelligence community ), China “is really not able to affect the integrity of our electoral system the way Russia can….”
And I use the term “Democratic talking point” for two main reasons. First, the Chinese unquestionably have recently gotten into the explicit election meddling game – though with some distinctive Chinese characteristics. Second, and much more important, China for decades has been massively influencing American politics more broadly in ways Russia can’t even dream about – mainly because so many major national American institutions have become so beholden to the Chinese government for so long thanks to the decades-long pre-Trump policy of promoting closer bilateral ties.
As for the narrower, more direct kind of election corrupting, you don’t need to take the word of President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien that “China, like Russia and Iran, have engaged in cyberattacks and fishing and that sort of thing with respect to our election infrastructure and with respect to websites.”
Nor do you have to take the word of Vice President Mike Pence, who in 2018 cited a national intelligence assessment that found that China “ is targeting U.S. state and local governments and officials to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy. It’s using wedge issues, like trade tariffs, to advance Beijing’s political influence.”
You can ignore Pence’s contention that that same year, a document circulated by Beijing stated that China must [quoting directly] “strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups” in the United States.
You can even write off China’s decision at the height of that fall’s Congressional election campaigns to take out a “four-page supplement in the Sunday Des Moines [Iowa] Register” that clearly was “intended to undermine farm-country support for President Donald Trump’s escalating trade war….”
Much harder to ignore, though: the claim made last year by a major Hoover Institution study that
“In American federal and state politics, China seeks to identify and cultivate rising politicians. Like many other countries, Chinese entities employ prominent lobbying and public relations firms and cooperate with influential civil society groups. These activities complement China’s long-standing support of visits to China by members of Congress and their staffs. In some rare instances Beijing has used private citizens and companies to exploit loopholes in US regulations that prohibit direct foreign contributions to elections.”
Don’t forget, moreover, findings that Chinese trolls are increasingly active on major social media platforms. According to a report from the research institute Freedom House:
“[C]hinese state-affiliated trolls are…apparently operating on [Twitter] in large numbers. In the hours and days after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters in October 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported, nearly 170,000 tweets were directed at Morey by users who seemed to be based in China as part of a coordinated intimidation campaign. Meanwhile, there have been multiple suspected efforts by pro-Beijing trolls to manipulate the ranking of content on popular sources of information outside China, including Google’s search engine Reddit,and YouTube.”
The Hoover report also came up with especially disturbing findings about Beijing’s efforts to influence the views (and therefore the votes) of Chinese Americans, including exploiting the potential hostage status of their relatives in China. According to the Hoover researchers:
“Among the Chinese American community, China has long sought to influence—even silence—voices critical of the PRC or supportive of Taiwan by dispatching personnel to the United States to pressure these individuals and while also pressuring their relatives in China. Beijing also views Chinese Americans as members of a worldwide Chinese diaspora that presumes them to retain not only an interest in the welfare of China but also a loosely defined cultural, and even political, allegiance to the so-called Motherland.
“In the American media, China has all but eliminated the plethora of independent Chinese-language media outlets that once served Chinese American communities. It has co-opted existing Chineselanguage outlets and established its own new outlets.”
Operations aimed at Chinese Americans are anything but trivial politically. As of 2018, they represented nearly 2.6 million eligible U.S. voters, and they belonged to an Asian-American super-category thats been the fastest growing racial and ethnic population of eligible voters in the country.
Most live in heavily Democratic states, like California, New York, and Massachusetts, but significant concentrations are also found in the battleground states where the many of the 2016 presidential election margins were razor thin, of which look up for grabs this year, like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
As for the second, broader and indirect, Chinese meddling in American politics, recall these developments, many of which have been documented on RealityChek:
>U.S.-owned multinational companies, which have long profited at the expense of the domestic economy by offshoring production and jobs to China, have just as long carried Beijing’s water in American politics through their massive contributions to U.S. political campaigns. The same goes for Wall Street, which hasn’t sent many U.S. operations overseas, but which has long hungered for permission to do more business in the Chinese market.
>These same big businesses continually and surreptitiously inject their views into American political debates by heavily financing leading think tanks – which garb their special interest agendas in the raiment of objective scholarship. By the way, at least one of these think tanks, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has taken Chinese government money, too.
>Hollywood and the rest of the U.S. entertainment industry has become so determined to brown nose China in search of profits that it’s made nearly routine rewriting and censoring material deemed offensive to China. And in case you haven’t noticed, show biz figures haven’t exactly been reluctant to weigh in on U.S. political issues lately. And yes, that includes the stars of the National Basketball Association, who have taken a leading role in what’s become known as the Black Lives Matter movement, but who have remained conspicuously silent about the lives of inhabitants of the vast China market that’s one of their biggest and most promising cash cows.
However indirect this Chinese involvement in American politics is, its effects clearly dwarf total Russian efforts – and by orders of magnitude. Nor is there any reason to believe that Moscow is closing the gap. In fact, China’s advantage here is so great that it makes a case for a useful rule-of-thumb: Whenever you find out about someone complaining about Russia’s election interference but brushing off China’s, you can be sure that they’re not really angry about interference as such. They’re just angry about interference they don’t like.`