Vice President Mike Pence detailed intelligence discoveries Monday evidencing Chinese attacks on the U.S., using a multi-pronged approach to exert influence in American public opinion ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections.
“As we speak, Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States,” Pence said in a speech at the Hudson Institute. “China is also applying this power in more proactive ways than ever before, to exert influence and interfere in the domestic policy and politics of our country.”
“Beijing is pursuing a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the President, our agenda, and our nation’s most cherished ideals,” he went on.
Pence outlined U.S. intelligence assessments of China’s “whole-of-government approach to advance its influence and benefit its interests,” in part by interfering in U.S. domestic policies and politics.
“The Chinese Communist Party is rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials,” said Pence. “Worst of all, China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections.”
Pence presented China’s actions as evidence that “President [Donald] Trump’s leadership is working; and China wants a different American President.”
He quoted President Trump who said last week the U.S. “found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming  midterm elections.”
Pence went on to detail what the U.S. knows about China’s efforts to exert influence in the U.S.:
Our intelligence community says that China is targeting U.S. state and local governments and officials to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy. It’s using wedge issues, like trade tariffs, to advance Beijing’s political influence.
In June, Beijing itself circulated a sensitive document, entitled “Propaganda and Censorship Notice,” that laid out its strategy. It states that China must, in their words, “strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups” in the United States of America.
To that end, Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policy. As a senior career member of our intelligence community told me just this week, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country. And the American people deserve to know it.
Senior Chinese officials have also tried to influence business leaders to encourage them to condemn our trade actions, leveraging their desire to maintain their operations in China. In one recent example, China threatened to deny a business license for a major U.S. corporation if they refused to speak out against our administration’s policies.
And when it comes to influencing the midterms, you need only look at Beijing’s tariffs in response to ours. The tariffs imposed to date specifically targeted industries and states that would play an important role in the 2018 elections. By one estimate, more than 80% of U.S. counties targeted by China voted for President Trump and I in 2016; now China wants to turn these voters against our administration.
And China is also directly appealing to American voters. Last week, the Chinese government paid to have a multipage supplement inserted into the Des Moines Register – the paper of record in the home state of our Ambassador to China, and a pivotal state in 2018 and 2020. The supplement, designed to look like news articles, cast our trade policies as reckless and harmful to Iowans.
He detailed the reach of Beijing-friendly radio and television with many U.S. outlets and in one case, China Global Television Network, reaching 75 million Americans. In September the U.S. “Department of Justice ordered that network to register as a foreign agent,” Pence alerted.
China has also exerted influence in academia. Pence highlighted the 150 Chinese Students and Scholars Associations branches on American college campuses and which are involved in reporting to the Chinese consulate, those Chinese students straying from Communist Party line. He told the story of a University of Maryland student who gave a speech in which she remarked of the “fresh air of free speech” in America.
“Today, America is reaching out our hand to China; we hope that Beijing will soon reach back – with deeds, not words, and with renewed respect for America,” Pence said as he closed. “But we will not relent until our relationship with China is grounded in fairness, reciprocity, and respect for sovereignty.”