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Pence Ramps Up Criticism of Mainland China

In a 4 October speech at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated claims that Beijing is meddling in U.S. political affairs by asserting that mainland China has launched an “unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections.” By specifically targeting industries and states that would play an important role in the upcoming congressional mid-term elections, the vice president claimed, mainland China is ostensibly seeking to turn voters against the Trump administration. Pence also alleged that a multi-page supplement designed to look like news articles that was recently published in the Des Moines Register was paid by the mainland Chinese government in an attempt to “cast our trade policies as reckless and harmful to Iowans.”

Pence enumerated a long list of additional grievances that have mainland China at their core and discussed a number of efforts pursued by the Trump administration to protect U.S. national and economic security from the mainland, including strengthening the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, streamlining international development and finance programmes to give foreign nations “a transparent alternative to China’s debt-trap diplomacy”, and forging new trade deals on a bi-lateral basis with South Korea and Japan.

Pence also criticised mainland China’s “arsenal of policies inconsistent with free and fair trade,” such as tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft and industrial subsidies. In response to those practices, Pence noted, the United States will “continue to demand an economic relationship with China that is free and fair and reciprocal, demanding that Beijing break down its trade barriers, fulfil its trade obligations, and fully open its economy, just as we have opened ours.” He added that the United States will continue to take action until Beijing ends the theft of U.S. intellectual property and stops the predatory practice of technology transfer.

While nothing is for certain in the Trump administration, Pence’s harsh criticism of mainland China could potentially be setting the stage for the imposition of additional Section 301 tariffs on a fourth tranche of mainland Chinese products. Recent U.S. press reports that mainland China ostensibly planted minuscule malicious computer chips on servers and other equipment in an effort to hack into the systems of about 30 American companies could also be used as justification by the administration to further escalate its trade war with the mainland.

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