National Security

Who, Us? China Diplomat Ducks When Asked if Beijing Interfering in 2018 Election

Ambassador Cui Tiankai accuses America of intruding on his nation's 'internal affairs' by selling arms to Taiwan

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, indirectly denied in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that his country is interfering in America’s 2018 midterm elections by targeting U.S. farmers who may be hurt economically by President Donald Trump’s tariffs.

Host Chris Wallace asked Cui to respond to Vice President Mike Pence’s allegation earlier this week that the Chinese government is buying space for its anti-tariff propaganda in media read by U.S. farmers.

Wallace also pointed out to Cui that FBI Director Christopher Wray describes China as “the number-one greatest intelligence threat that the U.S. faces.”

Cui responded, sort of, saying, “You see, China’s media are just learning from American media to use all these means to buy commercial pages from newspapers to make their views known or to cover what is happening here. This is normal practice for all the media.”

He did not respond directly to allegations of either blatant election interference or threatening spy activities.

Wallace did not follow up by repeating his question and asking for a direct answer.

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The Fox News host then asked Cui to respond to the claim by Trump on Tuesday, during his Make America Great Again rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that the U.S. loses $300 to $500 billion every year due to the “terrible, disgusting” trade deal with China.

Related: Mattis Says U.S.-China Relations Are Not Worsening

“I know you say the U.S. started it, but whoever started it, are you saying the U.S. and China are engaged in a trade war?” Wallace asked.

Again, Cui answered, sort of.

“Well, we do not have a trade war with any other country, including the United States. The fact is, through the bilateral trade agreement with the United States, you know how much benefit American consumers have got with trade with China over the years and how much money American companies have made from operating in China. You have to look at the whole picture.”

Cui then contradicted his previous statement by telling Wallace, “It’s important to remember who started this trade war. China never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests.”

Wallace noted that U.S. officials have substantial evidence that China steals U.S. technology and trade secrets and forces U.S. companies to transfer technology to China as a condition of doing business there. He also pointed out that a Chinese intelligence official was this week extradited to the U.S. on charges of technology theft.

Cui denied Wallace’s allegations while appearing to shift uncomfortably in his chair.

“I think all of these allegations about how China is developing are unfair to the Chinese people. You see, there are 1.1 billion people in China, so it’s hard to imagine that one-fifth of the global population could develop and prosper not by relying mainly on their own efforts, but by stealing technology from other people. That’s impossible. The Chinese people are as hard-working and intelligent as any people on Earth.”

On the growing tension between the U.S. and China as a result of the latter’s militarization of the South China Sea, Wallace asked if Cui’s leaders view as provocations the presence of the American Navy there in open shipping lanes and a forthcoming $330 million arms deal with Taiwan.

Referring to a recent incident in which a Chinese destroyer came uncomfortably close to a similar U.S. vessel, Cui said, “First of all, you are correct, the incident happened in the South China Sea, which is on China’s doorstep.”

“It’s not China’s warships going to the coast of California or off the coast of Mexico,” he continued. “It’s so close to the Chinese islands and the Chinese coast, so who is on the offensive and who is on the defensive, this is very clear.”

Related: White House Economist Sees New Trump-China Trade Talks, Maybe

In fact, possession of the islands Cui referenced has long been disputed among the Philippines, Vietnam and China; and the U.S. warship was clearly operating in a recognized international shipping zone.

On the arms deal with Taiwan, which China has long claimed is not an independent nation but part of its sovereign territory, Cui said, “This is a very good example of American intervention in China’s internal affairs.”

Cui also deflected Wallace’s direct question as to whether China is allowing economic goods to flow into North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions.

“China voted for all existing sanctions, and we have implemented all the U.N. resolutions — we have implemented them faithfully.” He also said China agrees with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s view that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula should be done “step by step in a coordinated fashion.”

Trump has made complete denuclearization by North Korea a prerequisite of relaxing U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions against that country.

Cui said he hopes Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (pictured above right) are able to make progress on the issues between the two countries when they meet next month at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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