Pence accuses China of meddling in US

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In a blistering speech on Thursday, Mr Pence accused China of military aggression, commercial theft and rising human rights violations as he cast the Asian power as a villain bent on interfering in upcoming USA polls.

Vice President Mike Pence escalated Washington's pressure campaign against Beijing on Thursday by accusing China of "malign" efforts to undermine President Donald Trump ahead of next month's congressional elections and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

He said Beijing had "mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans" perception of Chinese policies' and was targeting its tariffs to hurt states where Trump has strong support. The vice president, a favorite of conservative US Christians, also criticized China on human rights, voicing disappointment that rising prosperity has not led to reforms.

He was also to say that Chinese officials have tried to influence business leaders to condemn U.S. trade actions, "leveraging their desire to maintain their operations in China".

Pence alleged that China was waging a sophisticated influence campaign aimed at swaying the November 6 elections against Trump's Republican Party in retaliation for his trade policies against Beijing.

Pence's speech comes amid rumors that the US military is proposing a "major show of force" near China's territorial waters in November - "several missions" over the course of a week to demonstrate American naval and air superiority within striking distance of mainland China.

More official United States criticism of China is due to be released in a Pentagon-led report on risks to the supply of materials vital to the USA military, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Pence followed that up, saying intelligence assessments found that China is targeting USA state and local governments as well as officials to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy.

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Last month, a United Nations rights panel said it had received credible reports that up to one million ethnic Uighurs may be held in extra-legal detention in Xinjiang and USA officials have warned of sanctions against China for human rights abuses.

Google employees and others have protested the company's plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.

Li Hak-yin, a researcher on China's foreign policy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the speech marked an "impasse" in China-US relations, "but neither side will willingly walk into a new cold war".

Sounding the alarm, Pence warns other nations to be wary of doing business with China, condemning the Asian country's "debt diplomacy" that allows it to draw developing nations into its orbit.

"Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election", Trump said. "We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down".

Pence accused China of using its economic power to bully smaller countries and said it had threatened the stability of the Taiwan Strait by pressuring three Latin American countries to sever ties with Taiwan and recognize Beijing.

He was to say that a Chinese naval vessel came within 41m of the USS Decatur "as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, forcing our ship to quickly maneuver to avoid collision".

The new lesson for USA multinationals once the US ratifies USMCA and like deals around the world: If you want to invest in a dodgy jurisdiction that doesn't play by the rules, whether a China or a Libya or a Congo or a Newfoundland, you do so at your own risk, or if you want to mitigate the risk, do so at your own expense by buying political risk-type insurance on the free market.

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