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President Trump charged China with “placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers,” in response to a 4-page advertorial purchased by a Chinese State-run paper. The advertorial was fashioned as a series of articles entitled “China Watch” (PDFs found here). Trump’s response is particularly striking in light of his relative silence in response to the established interference of Russian robots. Abraham Denmark, “a former senior Pentagon and U.S. intelligence official [and current] director of the Wilson Center’s Asia Program,” told the New Yorker that this was an old practice and much less extreme than recent Russian actions: ” . . . there’s a distinction between influence and interference. What China did was the former, what Russia did was the latter.”

Denmark brings up an interesting point for an impeachment discussion. President Trump is being investigated for conspiracy to defraud the United States for his possible collaboration with Russians with the intention of interfering with the Presidential election. Some scholars believe that could constitute fraud. Though Trump could not be charged with colluding with the Chinese, it is an interesting question whether the actions of the Chinese government could similarly constitute fraud. That seems unlikely. In addition to what Denmark has already suggested (that there is a distinction between influence and interference) we are also missing the element of deceit (as described by Professor Bowman in the link posted immediately above). The Chinese were very candid in their attempts to influence voters — there was a banner at the top of each page of their advert which read “section sponsored by China Daily.” This is far from the equivalent of the massive campaign of Russians who adopted American personalities online. Therefore there was no probably no fraud involved; making Trump’s reaction contrast even more starkly his silence in the face of Russian interference. That being said, that’s an answer to a question nobody was asking. More soon.

397c0ded-a693-4cc2-bf77-10f6043cadb3-IMG_5088.jpgThe Des Moines Register