Beijing likely to pass on Trump invitation to probe Bidens, China experts say

Former Vice President Joe Biden (left) and US President Donald Trump. (AFP photos)
Updated 04 October 2019

Beijing likely to pass on Trump invitation to probe Bidens, China experts say

  • China says does not get involved in other countries’ internal affairs
  • China has little to gain from helping Trump undermine rival

WASHINGTON: If China were to act on US President Donald Trump’s surprising request on Thursday to start an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden and his family, it would be breaking one of its stated rules: do not meddle in another nation’s internal politics.
Beijing also stands to gain little by helping Trump undermine a political opponent, even in the midst of a bitter trade war that China is eager to end, China experts say.
The Republican president, the subject of an impeachment inquiry in Congress for asking Ukraine’s president to investigate the Bidens, upped the ante by calling on China to “start an investigation” into 2020 presidential hopeful Biden and his businessman son Hunter.
Beijing has a long-standing public policy of not interfering in foreign countries’ politics. Beijing does “not want to be involved or seen involved in the US presidential elections,” said Jeffrey Bader, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama for national security and a top Asia adviser.
Wang Yi, the Chinese government’s top diplomat and foreign minister, said this repeatedly at events around the United Nations General Assembly last week.
“China will never interfere in the internal affairs of the United States, and we trust that the American people are capable of sorting out their own problems,” he said.
Chinese officials could “try to hint at a potential exchange of policy concessions for information, if the information is damaging at all,” said Victor Shih, the Ho Miu Lam chair of China and Pacific Relations at University of California San Diego.
However, it might make more sense for Beijing to withhold any potentially negative information it may have on Trump’s rival “in order not to increase Trump’s re-election chances,” Shih said. “After all, Trump has upset US-China trade more than any president since Nixon,” he said.
Hunter traveled to China with his father, when the senior Biden was vice president, in 2013. The trip came months after Hunter became an unpaid board member of a new investment fund with a Chinese private equity manager, the New Yorker reported. Hunter Biden has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“The Chinese might be tempted to help Trump out and get a better trade deal, but I doubt they will interfere so directly in US politics,” agreed Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They know the risks, which include betting on the wrong horse.”

Muddying trade talks
Trump’s request is also a recipe for bad trade policy, said trade experts. Officials from China and the United States will meet in Washington next week to try negotiate a truce in the trade war that’s resulted in billions of dollars in tariffs and threatens to slow global economic growth.
The president’s comments could be interpreted as an attempt to draw a link between trade talks and domestic politics, one person briefed on the trade talks said.
“Mingling our own domestic politics with legitimate concerns about China’s unfair trade practices is not a good avenue for getting a big deal done,” the person said.
Over the course of the escalating trade war, Beijing officials have rarely responded to Trump’s volley of insults.
“The Chinese strategy to deal with Trump has been not to get drawn into tit-for-tat verbal battles, but pursue their interests in a very determined way, which is why the US-China trade talks are continuing,” said Evan Medeiros, a professor at Georgetown University and former National Security Council official.
Trump’s public request is also probably a moot point, China experts add. Chinese officials likely already know absolutely everything there is to know about Hunter Biden’s China-related activities or business dealings, thanks to Beijing’s long-standing practice of surveillance.
China’s Communist Party has historically monitored the activity of foreigners in the country closely, including restricting travel and visas, and sometimes communications and meetings with Chinese citizens and businesses.
One former US official suggested that if Trump is serious about securing Chinese help in investigating the Bidens, he could try to entice them by promising greater US cooperation in China’s efforts to secure the extradition of dozens of fugitives Beijing is seeking under its “Sky Net” anti-graft campaign.
Washington has long resisted handing over the fugitives, many of them accused of bribery, corruption and embezzlement, because of questions about the impartiality of China’s judicial system and the fairness of the charges.
The official said, however, that such an offer was unlikely to be enough to sway China to assist any probe targeting the Bidens.


US officials block police ‘extreme tactics’ as protests enter 12th day

Updated 06 June 2020

US officials block police ‘extreme tactics’ as protests enter 12th day

  • A federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other ‘less-than-lethal’ devices
  • Two police officers in Buffalo, New York, were suspended without pay on Thursday

WASHINGTON: Officials across the United States are moving to rein in police following accusations of excessive force being used against demonstrators, with protests over the killing of a black man in custody set to enter their 12th day on Saturday.
George Floyd, 46, died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has ordered that all flags at state facilities be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday in honor of Floyd, who was originally from the state’s Fayetteville city.
On Friday, marches and gatherings took place in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, New York and Denver, among other places, while protesters massed again, in the rain, in front of the White House. The night-time protests were largely peaceful but tension remains high even as authorities in several places take steps to reform police procedures.
A federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” devices such as flash grenades, with his ruling citing examples of protesters and journalists being injured by police.
“These are peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and medics who have been targeted with extreme tactics meant to suppress riots, not to suppress demonstrations,” US District Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in the ruling.
In Minneapolis, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke-holds, where pressure is applied to the neck, while California Governor Gavin Newsom said he would end state police training of carotid restraints similar to the technique used on Floyd.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing “Say Their Name” reforms, including making police disciplinary records publicly available as well as banning choke-holds.
“Mr Floyd’s murder was the breaking point,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement. “People are saying enough is enough, we must change.”
Black Lives Matter activists have called for cities to defund police departments. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat who in April proposed increasing law enforcement funding, this week reversed course and said he would seek some $150 million in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department.

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In another sign of how attitudes have changed, National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had made mistakes in not listening to players, in a video denouncing racism in the United States.
The NFL has been locked in a debate with players over kneeling protests during the playing of the national anthem.
Two police officers in Buffalo, New York, were suspended without pay on Thursday and placed under investigation after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground.
But the decision was met with pushback from the officers’ colleagues, with all 57 members of the police tactical unit quitting in protest at their treatment.
The demonstrations have erupted as the public and businesses struggle to recover from sweeping lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Disease experts have said the protests could spark new outbreaks.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with US President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches in the nation’s capital, had the slogan “Black Lives Matter” painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.
After nightfall, Bowser had light projections spelling out the words beamed onto nearby buildings, which she said on Twitter was a “night light” aimed at Trump.