CCP Influencing US Elections—but Which Way?

CCP Influencing US Elections—but Which Way?
Guests watch results and await the arrival of Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump at an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 5, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Antonio Graceffo

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has concluded that communist China is seeking to influence the 2024 elections. However, it remains uncertain whether Beijing’s aim is to support Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or to undermine democracy altogether.

The Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community explains that new technologies are allowing Moscow and Beijing to drive narratives, public opinion, and public policy. The intelligence community cites the Gaza war as an example, which has been “exacerbated by narratives encouraged by China and Russia to undermine the United States on the global stage,” negatively impacting “international cooperation on other pressing issues.”
Frighteningly, the IC states, “The world that emerges from this tumultuous period will be shaped by whoever offers the most persuasive arguments for how the world should be governed, how societies should be organized.”

Currently, China and Russia, particularly China, are working hard to dominate the information space and influence how people think and vote. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) efforts in this field are undermining the quality of democracy and can be tailored to aid a particular candidate.

Thousands of fake social media accounts have been discovered to have been connected to the Chinese regime as part of a campaign dubbed “spamouflage.” Ironically, these accounts, although pretending to be Americans, often lapse into Chinese. They are active between 8:50 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Beijing time, which are normal business hours, and they seem to go quiet during a one-hour lunch break. The accounts spread rumors, promote conspiracy theories, and sow discontent. Apart from supporting mayhem, they may also be attempting to bring about a desired outcome in the 2024 election.
There is much evidence that a Trump presidency would be bad for the CCP because former President Donald Trump is a China hawk. He initiated the trade war and has never been shy about blaming the CCP for trade cheating, dumping, and coercive activity against the United States and its allies. Arms sales to Taiwan increased under President Trump. He was also the first U.S. president to station uniformed American military personnel in Taiwan since 1979. Given that Beijing may fear President Trump, the CCP would likely direct its social media campaigns to help President Joe Biden win.
The Council on Foreign Relations, however, has a different take. It posits that the CCP may prefer a Trump presidency because of President Trump’s anticipated inability to gain consensus in the U.S. Congress. While true, this is also true under President Biden or any president. American politics are so polarized now that unless a single party holds the presidency and a majority in both houses, it would be difficult for a president to enact foreign policy. President Biden’s demands for additional funding for Ukraine are a good example. The funds are being delayed because Republicans demand greater funding for the protection of the southern border. So, clearly, a divided Congress can prevent either president from achieving foreign policy objectives.
The other potential weak point in a Trump presidency, as identified by the Council on Foreign Relations, that could favor Beijing would be President Trump’s inability to build an international consensus. On the other hand, strongmen and dictators respected President Trump and would listen to him, while some world leaders have insulted the United States by refusing to meet with President Biden.
Since the Russia-Ukraine war started, the diplomatic power of the United States has skyrocketed, returning to levels not seen in decades, perhaps since the Cold War. This unity and cooperation between the United States, European Union, and major partners Japan, Australia, and the UK, as well as smaller but crucial partners like the Philippines and possibly Vietnam, has developed out of a very real need for the world to seek protection under the U.S. defense umbrella. It seems quite farfetched that because some European leaders do not like President Trump’s tweets, they would then refuse to participate in the U.S.-led defense of Europe and just go at it alone against Russia.
Additionally, the strengthening of U.S. defense ties with its European and Asian allies began under President Trump. He challenged NATO members and scolded them for not meeting their defense spending goals. The result was that President Trump threatened to withdraw the United States from NATO, not that the NATO allies threatened to withdraw or stop collaborating with the United States on defense.
Much of President Trump’s opposition to NATO stemmed from two points. First, he argued that the United States should not bear the burden of financing Europe’s defense. Second, he contended that there are other theaters, such as the Middle East and Asia, where threats are more pressing than the ones posed by Russia. This viewpoint aligns with the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which identifies China as the bigger threat. Moreover, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East poses a significant risk of escalation, especially considering the Iran-China-Russia triumvirate. Consequently, President Trump believes that for NATO to remain relevant, it should expand its mandate to include addressing issues in the Middle East and countering China.

In conclusion, the analysis above centers on whether a Trump or Biden presidency aligns better with the CCP’s interests. However, the fundamental question is not about the merits of each presidency but rather which candidate the CCP believes serves its interests best. Consequently, the CCP will likely support the candidate it deems most beneficial to its goals. Conversely, if the CCP aims to undermine democracy, sow chaos, and deter other countries from embracing democratic values, they may choose to support both candidates and sow discord regardless of the election outcome.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Antonio Graceffo, PhD, is a China economic analyst who has spent more than 20 years in Asia. Mr. Graceffo is a graduate of the Shanghai University of Sport, holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and currently studies national defense at American Military University. He is the author of “Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion” (2019).
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