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Politics & Law

Bolton says China meddling in US elections


John Bolton, White House National Security Advisor, says China is one of the four countries that could meddle the midterm (picture clip from ABC News Video)

National Security Adviser John Bolton told ABC News at an interview on Aug 19 Sunday that he had “sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling” into the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

When Martha Raddatz, ABC News’ Chief Global Affairs Correspondent, pressed him by asking “have you seen anything in the past specifically to China?”, it is how Bolton responded: “I’m not going to get into the – what I’ve seen or haven’t seen, but I’m telling you, looking at the 2018 election, those are the four countries that we’re most concerned about.” Russia, Iran and North Korea are said to be the other three.

Just one day before this interview, “President Trump suggested in a tweet that investigators should expand the scope of election meddling beyond Russia, writing, ‘All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China.’”

We have at least two curious questions if Beijing is “meddling” the American midterm elections.

[Q1] Support Democrats or Republicans?

[Confusion 1] Hillary Clinton who represented the Democrats was the one who forcefully pushed the “Pivot to Asia” scheme so as to check China’s expansion during the Obama Administration. The Trans-Pacific Partnership project, for example, was one of the tactical moves to isolate China. Donald Trump who represented the GOP promoted the Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China, and then listed China, which replaced the terrorists, as the top threat to the United States. Some may argue that Beijing might try to assist the lesser evil but it is essentially simply a joke, since no one in the White House and the Congress would be really friendly to China.

[Q2] Could American voters be influenced?

[Confusion 2] American citizens are mature voters as electioneering has been in place for more than 200 years and freedoms of all kinds are available. Someone who cares about, say, business interest in China, may vote in favor of some candidates but it is his or her own value judgment, party orientation, personal interest calculation and etc which generate impact on the decision. It is more or less the same as another one who has business interest in Europe or Latin America. You run democracy because you trust your voters who are able to make sound decision. If you think your voters are fools whom can be easily brain-washed by foreigners or anyone, why are you operating democracy? Saying outsiders meddling the elections is to certain extent insulting your voters.

It is not surprising at all to see some foreign influence in any country’s elections. I guess, for example, for long time after WWII, Beijing probably has been maintaining some sorts of contact with the overseas Chinese, including those in America. While it is difficult to say how influential this kind of communication on their voting behavior, they remain a tiny percentage of the electorate. Unless we can see solid proof on how ‘action A’ has cause and effect on ‘outcome B’, accusing foreigners of election meddling will only make confusions more complicated, and complications more confusing.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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