Are China's attempts to punish red states as a part of a broader trade war 'election meddling,' or just savvy trade policy?
UNITED NATIONS – President Trump used a U.N. Security Council meeting ostensibly focused on the spread of weapons of mass destruction on Wednesday to accuse China of trying to tip the midterm elections against him.
“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.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visibly shrugged off Trump’s accusation, and later said that China prides itself on non-interference:
“We did not and will not interfere in any country’s domestic affairs. We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China.”
To date the U.S. government has offered no evidence that China is mirroring such tactics as those used by Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections, such as illegal cyber attacks, but indirect evidence abounds that China hopes to make life more difficult for Trump voters.
A government media bulletin this summer described the country’s tariff strategy as aiming to “strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups in US.”
Various Chinese tariffs have also had scalpel-like precision, targeting key employers in the home districts of Republican congressional leaders.
And one video from a Chinese state broadcaster even went so far as to muse about how soybean tariffs could dampen enthusiasm for Trump in Republican strongholds.
“The funny thing is that those voters that Trump thinks will rally behind his trade actions will be hurt by this conflict. That’s because China’s retaliatory response in raising tariffs on soybeans will affect the top-10 soybean producing states in the US. So will voters there turn out to support Trump and the Republicans once they get hit in the pocketbooks.”
Whether that amounts to a proper election meddling is in the eye of the beholder.
At the very least, Trump may have found a convenient foreign scapegoat if Republicans fare poorly in November.