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China says Donald Trump’s claim of election meddling is ‘slander’

September 27, 2018

President Trump’s allegation that China is subversively meddling in the U.S. election process to try and make Republicans lose the upcoming midterms has sent shock waves through foreign policy circles in Beijing, where a key Chinese Foreign Ministry official lashed out Thursday that the U.S. should “stop its unwarranted accusations and slandering.”

The international community “knows” it’s the U.S. not China that’s guilty of “frequently interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in the Chinese capital, a day after Mr. Trump made his allegation while presiding over a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York.

The president claimed broadly that Chinese officials are trying to subvert the U.S. vote out of frustration over his administration’s bare-knuckle trade posture toward Beijing.

“Regrettably, we have found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November, against my administration,” Mr. Trump said. “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.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was present at the Security Council session, appeared to shrug when Mr. Trump made the allegation. He later told the session the claim was “unwarranted” and that China does “not and will not interfere in any countries’ domestic affairs.”

But the matter apparently then became an issue of contention among Chinese foreign policy officials in Beijing, with Mr. Geng using a regular foreign ministry press conference to urge Washington to “stop doing or saying anything to hurt bilateral relations and the fundamental interests” between China and the U.S.

While Mr. Trump did not offer specifics when initially made his accusation Wednesday morning, he indicated later in the day that he was referring in part to China’s retaliatory tariffs against U.S. farm products, as opposed to the type of cyberhacking that Russia conducted in the 2016 U.S. elections.

“You have statements made [by the Chinese] that they were going to hit our farmers. Those are my voters,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I love the farmers. I’m taking care of the farmers.”

In a conference call arranged by the White House, meanwhile, a senior administration official claimed China is using a “whole-of-government approach” to interfere in the U.S. democratic system, including political, economic, commercial, military and informational “tools.”

But the official also then homed in on the allegation of targeted Chinese tariffs, saying: “Some examples of the ways that China is actively interfering in our political system include hurting farmers and workers in states and districts that voted for the president, because he stood up to the ways that China has taken advantage of our country economically.”

China has responded to Mr. Trump’s tariffs in part by penalizing U.S. farm exports, hitting especially hard at Mr. Trump’s GOP base in Midwestern and southern states. China also placed a four-page ad in the Des Moines Register last weekend calling the dispute over soybeans “the fruit of a president’s folly.”

On Thursday in Beijing, Mr. Geng claimed China’s actions have been well within the letter of “U.S. laws.”

The foreign ministry spokesman specifically defended the placement of the Des Moines Register ad, which he said was paid for by China Daily, a newspaper owned by the ruling Communist Party in Beijing.

“According to U.S. laws, foreign media could have various forms of cooperation with U.S. media,” Mr. Geng said. “China Daily putting up a paid piece on the Des Moines Register is just one of those forms, as I understand. Many foreign media do that.”

“It is absolutely far-fetched and fictitious to paint such normal cooperation as the Chinese government trying to interfere in the U.S. election,” he said.

“As a diplomatic tradition, China has been living by the principle of non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs,” Mr. Geng added. “The international community knows that already. The international community also knows who is so used to frequently interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.”

Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

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