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2018-10-15 15:36:08

China’s state news agency accused the United States of “inciting Sinophobia” on Sunday, over a week after Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech warning of a tense new chapter in Sino-U.S. ties, and a bombshell article by Bloomberg Businessweek alleged that the Chinese military had carried out a daring cyberattack against 30 American companies.

“America is trying to release the pressure it feels and selfishly gain benefits by demonizing China and controlling public opinion,” read the Xinhua op-ed, enumerating a laundry list of scandals to affect its Western rival in recent years, from Edward Snowden’s privacy revelations in 2013 to the WikiLeaks dump of thousands of secret CIA documents in 2017. The editorial board writes that the U.S. has a history of unfairly stigmatizing Chinese brands and businesses, including smartphone maker Huawei — which was named in the Bloomberg article — and drone manufacturer DJI.

Amid ongoing trade tensions, Vice President Pence accused China of trying to exert influence in domestic affairs during his Oct. 4 speech. “[Beijing] is employing this power in more proactive and coercive ways to interfere in the domestic policies of this country and to interfere in the politics of the United States,” he said. Other barbs focused on the Chinese government allegedly cultivating influence at U.S. universities through increasingly vocal student groups.

“The president will not back down,” Pence said emphatically near the end of his 40-minute speech, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Pence’s sharp words for Beijing are widely perceived to have exacerbated tensions between the two global superpowers, with some media outlets even wondering whether the speech might be portentous of a “new cold war.”

The day after Pence’s speech, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying called the claims of cyberattacks and election interference “purely hearsay, confusing fact and fiction, and a fabrication out of thin air.”

Also on the day of Pence’s speech, Bloomberg published a lengthy investigative report accusing the People’s Liberation Army of orchestrating and carrying out a plot to install tiny microchips on motherboards used by 30 U.S. companies, including Amazon and Apple. The chips supposedly provided whoever controlled them with back-door access to data servers, and went undetected for years.

Immediately after the article was published, Amazon, Apple, the Chinese government, and motherboard maker Supermicro all disputed what the authors presented, anonymously, as fact. “No one from Apple ever reached out to the FBI about anything like this,” Apple wrote, adding that they had never heard of the investigation referred to in the article. Amazon’s response was less equivocal still: “We never found modified hardware or malicious chips in servers in any of our data centers,” the company wrote.

Days after the published denials from Amazon and Apple, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it had “no reason to doubt the statements from the companies named in the story.” Even the article’s only named source — cybersecurity expert Joe FitzPatrick — said on a podcast that he had emailed Bloomberg before the story ran to say that what he was reading “didn’t make sense.”

“Fake news won’t fool the people,” Xinhua wrote in reference to Bloomberg’s article, using a phrase popularized by President Trump.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: VCG)