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.


Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

A woman holds a sign during a protest against the execution of Rodney Reed on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Bastrop, Texas. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

  • Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed

WASHINGTON: A Texas appeals court has suspended the execution of convicted murderer Rodney Reed — who has long claimed his innocence — in a case that has attracted widespread public attention and a celebrity-backed campaign.
Reed, a 51-year-old African-American, was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted by an all-white jury of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman.
His execution by lethal injection had been set for November 20, but Reed says he did not commit the crime, and his lawyers and supporters say that evidence proves he is innocent.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced on Friday that it had “voted unanimously to recommend the governor grant a 120-day reprieve” to Reed, who had appealed for clemency.
The state appeals court then halted the execution later in the evening.
Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed.
Kardashian said on social media she was with Reed when he received news about the reprieve.
Although traces of Reed’s DNA were found in the victim, he has always maintained that he and Stites were secretly having an affair.
Reed’s lawyers say that evidence obtained after the trial points to another suspect — the victim’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a former policeman who later served a 10-year prison sentence for another rape.
“The strong evidence exonerating Mr.Reed and implicating Fennell continues to mount,” the lawyers wrote in the clemency petition lodged with the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
In the clemency request, they included a testimonial from a former co-worker of the victim who confirmed the affair.
According to another affidavit, a former prison inmate said he heard Fennell brag during a prison yard conversation about committing the murder.
Fennell has denied involvement in Stites’ murder.
The Texas board declined Reed’s request to downgrade his sentence.
His lawyers also have filed a petition with the US Supreme Court, seeking a stay of execution.