An eye-catching report published on Dec. 17 on the homepage of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-run media Xinhua website stated, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Refutes Influencing U.S. Presidential Elections: Completely Fabricated.”
Chinese state media reports on the U.S. presidential election—and their expressed attitudes toward the two candidates—have fluctuated greatly. Of course, the Party has its eyes on Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden. But as allegations of election fraud and Chinese interference have surfaced, the Party is worried that the truth could be revealed soon.
CCP media has been cautious in general in its coverage, for fear of being implicated in election fraud, which would attract a strong U.S. reaction.
However, Xinhua’s denial of CCP interference in the U.S. election, at around the same time the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on election irregularities, is, in fact, indirectly hinting at its guilt.
The core of Xinhua’s report can be summarized with these words from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin: “China is committed to the principle of non-interference. Claims about China influencing U.S. presidential elections are completely fabricated.”
Wang was responding to a Bloomberg reporter’s question during a regular press briefing.
The reporter asked, “A statement from the Office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on Wednesday night that a deadline to submit a classified report to Congress on foreign efforts to sway the November 3rd election will not be met. That’s because director Ratcliffe is said to be refusing to sign off on the report unless it more fully reflects the national security threat posed by China. Does the ministry have any comment on this situation?”
The reporter carefully thought out how to phrase the question to elicit an impromptu answer from the spokesperson. And indeed, that appears to have happened.
Wang said, “Not long ago, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence called China “national security threat No. 1,” referring to Ratcliffe’s op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.
Then Wang said, “China is committed to the principle of non-interference. Claims about China influencing U.S. presidential elections are completely fabricated.”
The reporter’s question actually didn’t directly mention election interference, but Wang took the initiative to address the topic—a mistake on his part. This question wasn’t arranged in advance, as is often the case with Chinese journalists who attend the regime’s press briefings.
Instead, Wang just blurted out those words without preparing a script. The reporter’s question successfully caught something big.
Wang’s response was a slip of the tongue, although as long as no one mentions it deliberately, the moment will pass. However, what’s strange is that Xinhua made it the focus of an article, and deliberately emphasized the statement. On the surface, it seems illogical, but in essence, it reflects real concerns of the CCP leadership. Wang’s response was clearly the result of repeated warnings by the CCP’s high-level officials: You must categorically deny intervening in U.S. elections at all times.
While Wang naturally kept this in mind, he accidentally “copy and pasted” the answer to the wrong question.
A growing list of U.S. sanctions on Chinese companies and officials must have triggered fierce debates within the Party, as regime leader Xi Jinping’s authority is again being challenged. And the U.S. counterattack hasn’t ended. This is what the CCP leadership is most worried about. They cannot stop the United States from counterattacking, but the top officials don’t want to take responsibility for the consequences. Wang’s panic-stricken denial reflects the Party’s internal state.
People within the CCP know that such moves are part of the Party’s playbook to deflect attention from their mistakes: blame the United States for the continued deterioration of U.S.–China relations; incite nationalism, and play tough to maintain the CCP’s authority in the country.
Wang’s gaffe and the Party media’s overly zealous denial only expose how the CCP leadership is running out of ideas about how to deal with the United States.
Zhong Yuan is a researcher focused on China’s political system, the country’s democratization process, human rights situation, and Chinese citizens’ livelihoods. He began writing commentaries for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times in 2020.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.