Exclusive: Xi assured Biden Chinese election interference in 2024 seems unlikely.

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When the two men met in November, Chinese leader Xi Jinping assured US President Joe Biden that his country would not meddle in the 2024 US presidential election. This assurance was reaffirmed this past weekend by the Chinese foreign minister to Biden’s national security adviser, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations who spoke with CNN.These conversations highlight the tense state of US-China relations as well as the continued apprehension of US officials about foreign intervention in elections following the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the subsequent release of emails intended to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign by Russian intelligence services.

Since then, publicly available US intelligence files have revealed that Chinese, Iranian, and Cuban spies have all been actively attempting to sway US elections. However, none of those initiatives have been as forceful as the Russian operation in 2016.

Exclusive: Xi assured Biden Chinese election interference in 2024 seems unlikely.
Exclusive: Xi assured Biden Chinese election interference in 2024 seems unlikely.

Beijing’s hackers are still a formidable force with a presence in vital US infrastructure, even if Beijing decides not to meddle in the 2024 election. US national security officials have been publicly alerting the public for several months that Chinese cyber operators have penetrated computer networks in the transportation and maritime industries, providing Beijing with access that it could use to thwart any US military reaction to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

CNN reported on Monday that although the FBI and the Justice Department attempted to lessen the impact of the Chinese hacking operation, the threat still exists.
China’s past of interfering in elections
US intelligence sources claim that China has historically played a more passive role than Russia in attempting to influence US elections, concentrating on influencing a small number of congressional races. However, there are signs that Chinese agents are now more aggressively going after American voters and political candidates.

According to the US intelligence paper, the orders probably provided Chinese spies “more freedom to operate” before the 2022 midterm elections.

Exclusive: Xi assured Biden Chinese election interference in 2024 seems unlikely.
Exclusive: Xi assured Biden Chinese election interference in 2024 seems unlikely.

Microsoft issued a warning in September, claiming that Chinese agents were impersonating US voters online and igniting debate on contentious political topics by using AI-generated images of the Statue of Liberty and other symbols of American culture.

Reporters were informed last week by a top National Security Agency officer that the agency had not yet detected any significant new foreign influence operations targeted at the 2024 election. However, US officials are bracing for the prospect that foreign players like as China, Russia, and Iran may attempt to foment discord among voters through hacking, propaganda, or other methods.

“There will be plenty of motivations and opportunities for a wide range of threat actors to interfere in this year’s election,” stated Chris Krebs, who oversaw the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s efforts to prevent foreign interference in elections in 2020. “Between expanding geopolitical turmoil and the chaotic domestic political environment.”

According to Krebs, “2024 might be unlike any prior election—throw in AI-powered influence campaigns.” Krebs said to CNN.

A year of restoring stability to US-China relations
All indications that Beijing is trying to meddle in the US elections in 2024 might undo the laborious efforts that Chinese and American officials have made over the past year to stabilize relations between the two countries.

According to a US intelligence assessment declassified in December, since 2020, top Chinese officials have given Chinese operatives broad orders to “intensify efforts to influence US policy and public opinion in China’s favor” and to “magnify US societal divisions.” One of these influence tactics has been attacking US politicians online with fictitious social media profiles.In response to questions about whether election meddling was discussed in the Biden-Xi and Sullivan-Wang sessions, the White House National Security Council remained silent.

“China’s position has been consistent and clear: We always adhere to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated in a statement. The American people will decide who will be the country’s next president in the general elections, which are domestic matters. China doesn’t meddle in US political processes. We reject using the upcoming elections to politicize China.

The high-stakes, hour-long conversation in California between Xi and Biden—which was previously unreported—was intended to reduce the historically high military and economic tensions between the two countries.

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Exclusive: Xi assured Biden Chinese election interference in 2024 seems unlikely.
Exclusive: Xi assured Biden Chinese election interference in 2024 seems unlikely.

One of the individuals, who characterised the interaction as brief, claimed that Biden was the one who brought up the matter. This past weekend, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan revisited the subject during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bangkok. According to the source, Wang assured Sullivan that Beijing would not interfere in this fall’s US election, just as Xi had promised Biden months before.

The person briefed on the topic stated that in recent months, senior-level discussions between the two countries have discussed the possibility of China meddling in or influencing US elections.The November Biden-Xi summit in Woodside, California, resulted in the resumption of military-to-military communications between Washington and Beijing, which had been interrupted due to Taiwan-related tensions. It also resulted in an agreement for the two nations to continue high-level talks and a commitment to collaborate on reducing the production of fentanyl.

Although Xi made an effort to personally comfort Biden about the situation, some US officials are skeptical about how much control the Chinese leader actually has over the many bureaucracy and agencies that comprise the Chinese national security system. According to one of the sources, this means that US authorities would be closely monitoring Xi’s compliance with his pledge to keep out of US electoral interference.

At a private event in June of last year, Biden stated that Xi was “embarrassed” because the Chinese leader was not aware that the US military had shot down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon that was flying over the continental US. The balloon incident from the previous year damaged US-China relations and even caused US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing to be postponed for several months.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has released a statement that has been added to this report.

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