Secretary of State Blinken Discusses Reports of Attempted Chinese Election Interference with CNN

Washington has seen “evidence of attempts” to influence the US ballot coming from Beijing, the secretary of state has said

It has been reported that China has tried to manipulate US elections, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview with CNN on Friday, concluding his three-day visit to China. Host Kylie Atwood asked the senior diplomat about a pledge not to interfere in American democratic processes which Chinese President Xi Jinping gave to US President Joe Biden during their meeting in San Francisco last November. Recent reports have suggested that Beijing has failed to honor this promise, she claimed. Blinken refused to discuss any specifics. In general, Washington would consider any election interference “unacceptable,” he stressed, and that is what he reiterated during talks with top Chinese officials this week. ”We have seen, generally speaking, evidence of attempts to influence and arguably interfere. And we want to make sure that’s cut off as quickly as possible,” the secretary of state added.

Atwood’s conclusion from Blinken’s remarks was that China is “not heeding” US warnings. A threat assessment issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in February stated that Beijing “aims to sow doubts about US leadership, undermine democracy, and extend Beijing’s influence” through information operations and possible election meddling. ”Even if Beijing sets limits on these activities, individuals not under its direct supervision may attempt election influence activities they perceive are in line with Beijing’s goals,” the document stated. Claims that Chinese accounts online are trying to influence politics in the US came recently from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a London-based think tank, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington DC-based lobbying organization. Both reports focused on ‘Spamouflage’, a purported Chinese online influence operation. FDD claimed its research demonstrates “that social media takedowns are necessary, but not sufficient, to combat foreign malign influence operations.”

Earlier this week, Biden signed into law a bill which gives the owner of TikTok nine months to divest or face a ban in the US market. Proponents claim that ByteDance, which owns the popular social media outlet, is beholden to the Chinese government. Polls indicate that TikTok is a major news source for younger American voters, while older citizens prefer more traditional outlets, such as cable television and newspapers. Its management intends to challenge the law on First Amendment grounds.