Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 10 December 2020



China Censors Boast About Influence on Biden, Wall Street After It Goes Viral

Bloomberg News
  • Professor’s speech seized on by Trump and his supporters
  • Incident underscores sensitivity of ties between China, U.S.

A Chinese professor’s speech boasting about Beijing’s influence over President-elect Joe Biden was removed from the country’s social media platforms after going viral in the U.S., underscoring how sensitive ties between the world’s two biggest economies are after strife under Donald Trump.

The speech by Di Dongsheng, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, was delivered in November, and boosted Monday after Fox News host Tucker Carlson talked about the remarks and Trump tweeted a clip. Di, who was speaking at an annual event hosted by the nationalistic Chinese website Guan Video, bragged about Beijing’s sway over Wall Street and Biden’s son Hunter and said: “Biden is back! Our old game is back.”

Carlson seized on the comments on his Monday broadcast as proof that U.S. elites have been working on behalf of China. By Thursday, video of the talk had been removed from Chinese social media and video platforms.

Di said that China “used to know people at the top” in the U.S. financial world. “We have a network of ‘China’s old friends’ on Wall Street, who had access and control over the D.C. politicians,” Di said, adding that those connections failed to help during the trade war because “Wall Street can’t control Trump.”

The incident illustrates the difficulty Biden faces crafting a China policy, after months of efforts by Trump and his supporters to paint the former vice president as soft on Beijing. Such comments by a high-profile Chinese academic could add to the pressure on the incoming administration to take a harder line.

Di suggested that Biden’s son Hunter was a path to influence over the incoming president, feeding a narrative pushed by Trump and his supporters during the campaign. “We just need to toss out some olive branch to signal some good will,” Di said.

Guan Video caters to young Chinese nationalists with programs on politics and foreign affairs that are widely watched on Chinese social media platforms. Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin, who also spoke at the Guan Video event, dismissed Di’s claims, commenting multiple times on Trump’s tweet.

“There are some Chinese scholars who like to brag and spice-up tales about their ties with high-level figures to seek attention and promote oneself,” he wrote. “It’s unserious to judge China-U.S. relations with stories told by these kind of people.”

The dustup comes after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, addressing the U.S.-China Business Council last week, said the world’s two biggest economies needed to work together to create a favorable atmosphere for public opinions on bilateral ties.

They need to “eliminate soil for lies and disinformation” to “form a correct understanding of China-U.S. relations,” Wang said.

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