05:51 GMT +323 January 2020
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    A Chinese national has been arrested in the US for allegedly spying for the Ministry of State Security for China. This is what the US Justice Department announced on Tuesday. The suspect – Ji Chaoqun – is accused of trying to recruit American engineers, defense contractors and scientists to work for Beijing.

    Sputnik discussed the arrest with David O'Brien from the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo China.

    Sputnik: What impact can the latest move by the US to arrest a Chinese national on spy charges have on the already strained US-China relations?

    David O'Brien: I think it is indicative of the increasing strain in relations, certainly the detention of alleged spies on either side, either the American or the Chinese side is nothing new and it does tend to spike in times of tension and in times of increased strain, and as the economic trade war continues and now seems to be taking a stronger hold, I think this is one example and we will see many more examples of increasing tension between the two countries breaking out in lots of different ways and in some ways that we may not have even saw previously.

    Sputnik: Also Donald Trump accused Beijing of interfering in other nations affairs, specifically, he spoke of the fact that he thinks that China's interfering in the US midterm election or trying to do so in any case, what do you make of those accusations, are these just another part of the overall worsening, the souring of relations and finger-pointing and accusing that comes along with that?

    David O'Brien: That's right, that was an interesting allegation because it seems that it was based on an advertisement taken out by the Chinese Embassy I think it was in a newspaper in Iowa challenging some aspects of the US trade embargo in an area which is very heavily affected by it because there is a lot of soy grown in Iowa and there's a lot of trade between the two countries on that.

    READ MORE: Trump Blaming Chinese Trade for US Job Losses is ‘Misplaced'

    And President Trump seems to have interpreted that as an attempt on the Chinese government of interfering in the midterm elections; now whether or not it is or it's not, it's hardly a particularly sophisticated attempt and advertisements taken out by embassies and governments is not new, but I do think his allegations and an increasingly tense atmosphere between the two countries is certainly apparent.

    And when we think about where the situation was just a few months ago when Donald Trump was inaugurated and when relations between the two men personally seemed so warm it's striking that the relation between the two countries has now entered a period where it is certainly the worst that I've seen in my years, of 10 or 15 years of traveling and living in China, and I think there's danger that this could escalate beyond just a trade war into something which could become more problematic for the relations between the two countries.

    Sputnik: What do you think about the timing of this, of these accusations? Of course, they coincide with the actual incident that you mentioned with the ad being taken out, but who is to really benefit from those claims? Do you think that a farmer who saw an ad that perhaps supports some of his fears regarding what's going to happen with his soybean crop, do you think that that's really going to sway the farmer to vote differently?

    David O'Brien: Donald Trump is always very conscious of his base, he is very conscious of an upcoming election which could in many ways define his presidency, the midterm election will have such a significant impact on his presidency, and if you go back to the presidential election two years ago, China was a frequent target in his campaign, a target for criticism and allegations of taking American jobs, allegations which you can argue in different ways but certainly it was something that appealed to his base, his ideas of bringing jobs back from China, the idea that China was not playing fair in terms of international trade, something that was very much part of his election campaign, and, of course, that's now become more inter-policy, the trade wars in many ways, Trump following through on some of the campaign statements he made.

    READ MORE: More 'Bullets' for China: Trump Threatens Beijing With New Retaliatory Measures

    When he's speaking to an Iowa farmer, he's speaking in many different ways and one is certainly the midterm election, but another would be to indicate that Trump's administration will continue to use China as a kind of a bogeyman as it were, who are being blamed for many of the ills of the United States at the moment. There's no indication that that's going to lessen anytime soon, perhaps if the results in the midterm elections are poor and there's a feeling that his base is sliding then the attacks on China may increase because they have worked before.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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