China will attempt to influence US elections
China has been facing the wrath of the US on all fronts and finding it difficult to respond. The US-China trade war is growing worse, with major Chinese companies currently trading on US stock exchanges, under the scanner and likely to be barred, thus denying them funds. In Trump’s latest directions, schools and colleges in the US have been directed to divest from Chinese holdings in their endowment funds.
The reason stated for these directions were, ‘wholesale delisting of Chinese firms from US stock exchanges by end of next year.’ In comments last week, on a question on whether trade talks with China would commence shortly, Trump stated, ‘I don’t want to talk to China right now.’
The US has convinced almost all its allies to block Huawei from entering their markets. It has simultaneously prevented US companies and those producing semiconductors with US technology and knowhow from supplying them to Huawei, making its future bleak. The US is simultaneously pushing to moving supply chains away from China, impacting its economy.
The US has dumped its one-China standand sent a diplomat to Taiwan,in a display of change in policy. It has also approved sale of major weapon platforms to Taiwan, despite Chinese objections. Its imposing sanctions on those involved with maltreatment of Uighurs and implementing new security laws in Hong Kong has irked China.
Last week the US suspended bilateral extradition and tax exemption treaties with Hong Kong. The US continues to place restrictions on Chinese journalists, researchers and students in a display of distancing itself from collaborating with China.
The closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston indicatedTrump’sresolve to adopt an offensive approach. The movement of aircraft carrier groups in the South and East China sea are enhancing military pressure on China. Last week a US Guided Missile destroyer, USS Mustin, sailed through the sensitive Taiwan strait in an open message of responding with force. China termed the move as ‘extremely dangerous.’ US military actions against China are enhancing confidence of nations facing Chinese unilateral pressures in the region.
Trump’s accusations of China being responsible for the pandemic continue unabated. Despite China attempting to change the game by offensive forays against nations in vicinity, economic actions and wolf warrior diplomacy against those located at a distance, the US ensures that the world continues to hold China responsible for the pandemic.
Though China may claim that it is responding tit for tat to the US,realistically, it has limited options. It feels isolated because major global economies are joining hands with the US, backed by its support. China is facing global economic pressures, reduced orders, receding economy and military pressure in the South and East China seas. The latest nation to block Chinese takeovers of domestic industry is Australia.
Criticism within China on its offensive actions are growing. The CCP expelled Cai Xia, a former professor at the Central Party School, for her interview with the Guardian, where she stated that Xi was provoking conflict with multiple nations, including India to divert attention from internal failures. She had earlier stated, ‘He (Xi Jinping) has made the world an enemy.’
China is aware that if Trump is re-elected, pressures would only rise.While it is unaware of what policies Biden may follow, it would not be worse than those adopted by Trump. The Global Times has been praising Biden as a better choice. It stated that in case Biden wins, ‘the US approach would be more predictable, and Biden is much smoother to deal with than Trump.’Hence, it would prefer Trump’s defeat.
China may attempt to influence US polls, but it has limited options. In addition, US agencies are on the lookout for any such misadventures by China.
China would be hoping that poor handling of the pandemic, with the largest global death count, could itself lead to a Democratic win. Currently the US has the maximum number of COVID cases and deaths. To this end, there are regular write ups in Chinese English media networks on the US’s policy failures and high casualty figures on account of the virus. Most articles blame the current US leadership for not being proactive and adopting appropriate preventive measures.
This information warfare, launched by China, is a copy from a known book ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ written by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. The book discusses that China cannot respond to the US militarily in the current era and hence must engage it by employing non-kinetic means including economic and informational.
Alternatively, China may attempt to copy the Russian model of the last election and target Trump using social media as a weapon. This approach is time consuming, possible to monitor and has no guarantee of success. It is possible that the US would hit back harder in vengeance. It would thus need to consider a fool proof option to push elections in its favour.
This fool proof option is employing military force against a US ally, compelling it to act and thereby drawing it into a limited conflict with China. Casualties on US troops would impact Trump, who has repeatedly announced his decision to withdraw from wasteful conflicts. In case the US does not join the conflict, Chinese victory would result in a humiliation for the US and possibly end the Trump administration.
Currently China is involved in a standoff with India in Ladakh, challenging its neighbours over islands in the South and East China sea and regularly threatening Taiwan. Of the offensive manoeuvres currently underway by China, the only action which would invoke a strong US response is Taiwan. Thus, China could seek to plan an offensive operation on Taiwan.
Reintegrating Taiwan with the mainland would also ensure that Xi Jinping goes down in history as China’s greatest leader and secures his chair for life. His recent decision to impose new security laws on Hong Kong, bringing it firmly under Beijing has won him local support, but along with it, global anger. Regaining Taiwan would be icing on the cake.
China would have considered its options on the possible period when it is most likely to succeed. Options remain acting well prior to US elections or close to it. The best option would be close to elections when Trump’s efforts are concentrated domestically. For the US, entering the conflict on behalf of Taiwan is a risk, while not interfering implies loss of face and granting China victory and enhanced confidence to challenge the US.
Xi Jinping is carefully building the environment for reintegrating Taiwan. The PLAs increased exercises in the area and limited offensive forays against other nations in the region are carefully testing US reactions. Taiwan is the next target and that too close to US elections.
If well planned and executed, integration of Taiwan would serve multiple aims. It would make Xi the most successful Chinese leader, who secured both Hong Kong and Taiwan, ensured a US defeat, and determined the end of Trump’s political career. The next US president would then need to discuss with China on Xi’s terms. This is possibly the Chinese strategy in the coming few months, Ladakh can wait for the next summer.
Courtesy: First published on www.dailyexcelsior.com