China replaces Russia as new U.S. villain, accused of election meddling

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U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence
China is the new U.S. villain, according to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday accused China of aggression in areas from security to trade as he portrayed the Asian power as a villain interfering in US elections.

Expanding on a theme first aired by President Donald Trump at the United Nations last week, Pence accused China of waging an “unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion” ahead of critical congressional elections on November 6.

“To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working; China wants a different American president,” Pence said in a speech at the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.

“There can be no doubt — China is meddling in America’s democracy.”

The administration’s offensive on China comes as a cloud hangs over Trump with an investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to swing the 2016 presidential election in the Republican real estate tycoon’s favour.

Just hours before Pence spoke, the US Justice Department indicted seven Russian intelligence agents as part of a joint crackdown with Britain and The Netherlands on alleged hacking by Moscow, including against the Democratic Party, Trump’s domestic rivals.

But Pence said: “As a senior career member of our intelligence community recently told me, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.”

Pence’s sharply worded address comes days before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to visit China on a trip focused on nuclear diplomacy with North Korea — an area on which the United States still seeks Beijing’s cooperation.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have plummeted in recent weeks with Trump slapping $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods amid complaints over Beijing’s trade policies.

Trump has “made clear that we’ll levy even more tariffs, with the possibility of substantially more than doubling that number, unless a fair and reciprocal deal is made,” Pence said.

He lashed out at China for focusing its retaliatory tariffs on states vital to the Republicans’ electoral chances.

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