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Biden receives assurance from Xi Jinping about China’s non-interference in 2024 election

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WASHINGTON — In a recent conversation with ‍President Joe Biden, Chinese leader Xi Jinping assured that ‌China would not meddle in the upcoming 2024 U.S. presidential election. This pledge‍ was ‍later⁣ reiterated by⁤ the Chinese foreign minister to Biden’s national security adviser, according to two individuals privy to the discussions, as reported by CNN.

The undisclosed dialogue between Xi and Biden occurred during a lengthy, high-stakes meeting in California, which was aimed at alleviating ‍the escalating military and economic ‍tensions ⁢between the two global powerhouses.

One of the sources revealed that it⁣ was Biden ⁤who broached the subject, describing the⁢ exchange as brief. During ⁢a subsequent⁣ meeting in Bangkok with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang​ Yi, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan revisited‍ the ⁢topic. Wang echoed the same assurance​ Xi ​had given Biden months earlier — that ⁢Beijing would‍ not interfere‌ in the American election this fall, the source added.

The‌ possibility of China​ meddling in or influencing U.S. elections has been a recurring topic in high-level meetings between the two nations in recent months, according to the source briefed on the matter.

These discussions⁢ underscore the‍ strained U.S.-China relations and⁣ the lingering ⁢concerns of American officials regarding foreign election interference, a fear that was heightened after the 2016 incident where Russian intelligence agencies hacked ⁢the⁢ Democratic National Committee and leaked emails to ‍undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Since⁣ that ‍incident, Iranian, Cuban, and Chinese agents have‌ all attempted to influence U.S. elections, as per public ‍U.S. intelligence reports. ⁢However, none of⁢ these efforts have been as ⁢aggressive as the 2016 ‍Russian operation.

Despite China’s pledge⁤ to ⁤refrain from interfering in​ the 2024 election, Beijing’s ⁤hackers remain ​a significant threat, with access⁤ to ⁢critical ⁤U.S. infrastructure. U.S. national‍ security officials have been publicly warning for⁢ several months ⁤that ​Chinese cyber operatives have infiltrated computer⁣ networks in the maritime and transportation‌ sectors — access that Beijing might exploit to disrupt any ⁤U.S. military response to a ⁣potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

The FBI and the Justice Department have attempted to mitigate the impact of the Chinese ⁤hacking operation through a court order,⁣ as ‍reported by CNN on Monday, ⁣but the threat persists.

The‌ White ‌House National ⁢Security Council declined to comment on ​whether election interference was discussed in the Biden-Xi ​and Sullivan-Wang meetings.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry stated, “China’s stance has always been consistent and clear: ‍We strictly adhere to ⁣the principle ​of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. U.S. general elections are ⁤U.S. internal affairs and the choice of the next president⁣ is up to the American people. China does not⁤ interfere in U.S. elections. We oppose making⁢ China an issue based on election politics.”

At a‌ U.S. House hearing on Wednesday,⁤ FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked about Wang’s⁣ assurance to Sullivan that China would​ not⁣ interfere in the​ 2024 election.

“China [has] made ‍many promises over the years, so I’ll believe it when ​I see it,” Wray told lawmakers.

China’s Past Involvement ⁢in ‌Election ⁤Meddling

Compared ⁤to Russia, China has traditionally adopted ⁤a more ⁤passive approach in attempting to influence‌ U.S. elections,‌ focusing‍ on a few ​congressional races, according to U.S. intelligence officials. However, there are signs that ⁣Chinese operatives‌ have become more ⁣assertive in targeting U.S. voters‍ and political candidates.

Since 2020, high-ranking Chinese officials have issued broad‌ directives to Chinese operatives to “intensify efforts to influence U.S. policy and public ‍opinion in China’s favor,” and senior Chinese officials have aimed to “magnify U.S. societal divisions,” according to a U.S. intelligence‌ assessment declassified in December. These influence‌ efforts⁤ have included using fake social media accounts to attack U.S. politicians⁢ online.

These directives likely gave Chinese operatives “more freedom to operate” ahead ⁤of the ​2022 midterms, according to the U.S. intelligence document.

Microsoft warned in ⁤September that​ Chinese operatives had used AI-generated images of the Statue of Liberty and⁣ other symbols of American​ life to mimic U.S. voters ‌online and⁤ provoke discussion on‌ divisive political issues.

Last week, a senior National Security ‍Agency official told reporters that the agency had⁤ not yet seen signs of any notable new ⁣foreign influence operations aimed at the 2024 election. But U.S. officials ‍are preparing for the possibility that Russia,⁢ Iran, China, and ⁣other foreign ⁢actors will try to sow discord among voters through propaganda, hacking, or other means.

“Between expanding geopolitical turmoil and the chaotic domestic political environment, there will be⁣ plenty of⁣ motivations and opportunities for a ⁤wide range of ‍threat actors to interfere in this year’s election,” said ⁤Chris Krebs, who led the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s work to protect elections from foreign interference in 2020.

“Throw in AI-powered influence campaigns and 2024 might ⁣be unlike any​ prior election,” Krebs told CNN.

A Year of ⁤Efforts to​ Stabilize China-US ⁢Relations

Any signs of Beijing attempting to⁢ interfere with the 2024 U.S. elections could disrupt the painstaking ⁢work that American and Chinese officials‌ have put into stabilizing U.S.-China relations over the last year.

The Biden-Xi summit in Woodside,⁤ California, in November resulted in the re-establishment of military-to-military⁣ communications between Washington and Beijing, which had been severed due to ‌tensions related⁢ to Taiwan. The two countries also committed to work together on curbing fentanyl production and agreed ‍to continue⁢ high-level talks.

Despite​ Xi’s personal ‍assurance to Biden, some U.S. officials question⁢ the extent to ‍which the Chinese leader has ⁤full control over the vast array of agencies and bureaucrats that comprise the Chinese​ national security apparatus. This means U.S. officials will be closely monitoring whether⁣ Xi ⁤keeps​ his ⁣promise not to interfere ⁢in U.S. elections, one of ⁢the sources said.

Biden told attendees of a ‍private fundraiser ​last June that Xi was “embarrassed” when the U.S. ⁤military shot down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon ​flying over the continental U.S. because the Chinese leader was unaware‍ the balloon was a Chinese ​asset. This incident​ strained U.S.-China⁤ relations and even⁤ delayed a​ trip to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken by⁤ several months.

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