China denies meddling in US elections and demands 'respect'
After Donald Trump's combative tweets, China politely tells him to stay in his lane
On Wednesday, China called on the US to show "respect" in their trade dispute and rejected US President Donald Trump's claims that it was meddling in the US mid-term elections by taking aim at his political base.
The comments follow a combative series of tweets claiming Beijing's retaliatory tariffs on US goods were seeking to influence knife-edge mid-term congressional elections in November.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang rejected the claims, saying: "Anyone who has some knowledge of China's diplomacy will know that we will not interfere in other countries' domestic affairs. We don't want others to interfere in our domestic politics, and we will not interfere in the domestic politics of others."
Accusations of election meddling are especially sensitive in the US, given the political maelstrom over Russia's alleged intervention to support Trump in the 2016 presidential vote.
China, separately, also rejected claims — made by Trump in the past — that it has manipulated the value of the yuan down to compensate for the effect of US tariffs on its exports. "China will never rely on the depreciation of the renminbi (yuan) to stimulate exports, because a one-way depreciation of the renminbi exchange rate will have more disadvantages than advantages," Premier Li Keqiang told an economic forum.
The US announced on Monday that it would push ahead with tariffs on $200bn in Chinese goods, on top of $50bn already targeted. This means the additional levies will hit more than half of US goods from China — its largest source of imports.
After China retaliated on Tuesday with duties on $60bn of American products, Trump accused China of trying to sway the elections.
'Great and fast' retaliation
"China has openly stated that they are actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me," Trump wrote on Twitter. "China has been taking advantage of the United States on Trade for many years. They also know that I am the one that knows how to stop it," he added, warning of a "great and fast economic retaliation" if China targets American farmers and industrial workers.
Some of the items included in the new tariffs announced on Tuesday include daily necessities, such as diapers and furniture — which would hit US consumers hard — as well as solar panels and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
In July, Beijing announced a 25% increase in tariffs on soybeans, dealing a blow to Trump's rural base in the soy-growing American heartland. China, the world's biggest importer of soybeans, used in cooking oil and animal feed, bought about one third of its beans from the US last year.
The US also accuses China of seeking global industrial dominance through industrial espionage and through forced transfers of technology from foreign companies; state-sponsored corporate acquisitions; illicit market interventions; subsidies and dumping.
Despite the escalating trade tensions, last week Washington asked China for a new round of trade talks led by US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.
"On one hand, the US is making contact for dialogue and extending invitations, but on the other it is threatening with sanctions, with pressures," Geng said on Wednesday. "These little actions by the US have become the routine, and we are prepared for them," he added, calling on Washington to show "mutual respect", "sincerity" and "good faith".
Meanwhile, Premier Li railed against "unilateralism" in a veiled allusion to the trade war while also calling for disagreements to be worked out through consultations. "It is essential that we uphold the basic principles of multilateralism and free trade," Li said in his speech at the summer session of the World Economic Forum in the eastern Chinese city of Tianjin.
Li also rejected claims of currency manipulation. Still, he acknowledged China faced problems, such as infrastructure investment levels falling to record lows and external trade friction.