US President Donald Trump openly accused China of trying to influence the results of the 2018 midterm elections in the United States during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday.
"Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November, against my administration… 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," Trump said.
Speaking at the same UNSC meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi refuted Trump’s allegations and reiterated the nation’s "non-interference" foreign policy.
"We did not and will not interfere in any country's domestic affairs. We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China… China has all along followed the principle of non-interference in other countries domestic affairs. This is a tradition of Chinese foreign policy. Our observance of this principle has received acclaim from the international community," Wang said.
Facing criticism from US press for not providing substantial evidence of China’s alleged attempts to meddle in upcoming US midterm elections, Trump posted pictures of full-page political ads in a prominent local newspaper in Iowa sponsored by Chinese state media China Daily.
"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!" Trump wrote in the message along with the pictures on his official Twitter account on Wednesday.
However, political experts argued that China is unlikely to launch a campaign seeking to influence US election results through traditional press and social media platforms, as Chinese media have very little sway in the United States.
"China has a very limited influence on social media in the United States. China is very good at blocking ‘negative’ news viewed as against the nation’s interests through its massive firewall systems. But it’ll be difficult for China to produce influential content that can challenge the Trump administration," Yen Chenshen, a researcher at the Institute of International relations, National Chengchi University in Taiwan, told Sputnik.
Other Chinese political experts pointed out that the US audience is not interested in the foreign press as they do not seem to care about world affairs.
"Chinese state media have very little influence in the United States, because their reputation as a propaganda organ is widely known. And the US audience is not interested in what’s happening outside of the United States," Li Datong, a Beijing-based political analyst who served as an editor at the Communist Party newspaper China Youth Daily, told Sputnik.
Nevertheless, Yen from the National Chengchi University suggested that China could take advantage of its economic power to influence elections results in specific US states more covertly.
"Retaliatory tariffs China introduced against the United States could deal a huge blow to the economies in several Midwest ‘swing’ states including Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, where the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are fighting a tight race. In states where Trump enjoys strong support, such as North Dakota, China could simply stop buying natural gas from there. Such actions could easily hurt Trump’s support base in the elections," he said.
The expert added that China could easily leverage investment decisions in certain states to push for electoral results favorable to Chinese interests.
"In the states which have attracted a lot of investments from China, Beijing could leverage such investments as a bargaining chip. If China decides to withdraw those investments, it’ll be a huge blow to the local economy. They [China] could get the lobby groups in the United States to do their bidding. The lobbying will be done through US-based PR companies, which is completely legal under US laws," he said.
Yen believes China could utilize this strategy in the 2020 US presidential election to hurt Trump’s chances in several key states that helped him win the presidential election in 2016.
"China has to take such actions [to influence future US elections], if Trump secures victory in the 2018 US midterm elections. That’s because the staffers who are closer to the US political establishment have all left the Trump administration. Only hawkish officials such as Peter Navarro stayed. It means the aggressive policy toward China will continue," Yen said.
After taking office as US president, Trump’s aggressive trade policies have presented unprecedented challenges to Chinese leaders, Li, the Beijing-based political analyst noted.
"The Chinese leaders misjudged Trump’s policy positions. They just took Trump as a businessman, who can be easily satisfied by signing contracts worth billions of dollars. This method [of offering big contracts] has always worked. Whenever the United States complained before, China would offer to billions of dollars in business contracts. But Trump did not buy this method this time," he said.
The Chinese analyst explained that Trump’s strong stance on the trade dispute with China is more than his personal policy preference.
"Since [former US President Richard] Nixon’s historical visit to Beijing, there has never been a bipartisan consensus on China in the United States. But today, both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have reached a shocking consensus about China and the Chinese Communist Party. That’s because they have both understood that it’s impossible for China to move toward Western-style democracy through economic development. That’s why they decided to try to contain China’s growth and expansion," he said.
Li suggested that no matter who becomes the next US president in the future, China is expected to face similar hostility from the United States.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.