Following the investigation into Russia meddling into US elections, California Congressman Jeff Denham has also accused China of the same. While there have been some minor spying incidents, political analyst Victor Shih, author of Factions and Finance in China: Elite Conflict and Inflation, does not see a similar effort for interference from China, he tells Politifact.
In her response, Denham’s spokeswoman cited news reports that a staffer who once worked for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein had a connection to Chinese spying.
Victor Shih, an associate professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UC San Diego, said, however, there’s no indication the staffer had any role in election interference.
Shih said another matter from the 1990s, and not cited by Denham’s office, does show one “clear case of China trying to influence elections.”
In 1996, Johnny Chung, a Taiwanese-born California businessman, pleaded guilty to illegally funneling money from China to President Bill Clinton and the Democratic National Committee during Clinton’s re-election campaign.
Chung later testified before Congress that the donations included $35,000 from the head of China’s military intelligence agency to Clinton’s successful reelection effort.
The FBI even warned six members of Congress at the time: “We have reason to believe that the government of China may try to make contributions to members of Congress through Asian donors.”
Shih and the other experts we contacted said, however, the Chung matter does not represent a widespread, persistent effort by China to interfere in U.S. elections. China is suspected, he added, of conducting a recent and broad political influence campaign in Australia.
“Meddling, of course, there are some cases of it (by China in the United States),” Shih said. “But to say that it’s pervasive or everywhere, I think it’s a bit of a stretch.”
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