USA vice president says China interfering in American politics

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The latest incident in the South China Sea comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, and the situation could soon worsen, as the United States military is reportedly considering a proposal for a major show of force as a warning to the Chinese, which perceive American actions moves to contain Chinese power.

The Trump administration particularly takes issue with China's tactic of imposing tariffs on products produced by some of the US president's key supporters, such as farmers in the midwestern United States.

Relations between the world's two largest economies have plummeted in recent weeks with Trump placing $250bn in tariffs on Chinese goods, in part over charges that Beijing forces U.S. companies to hand over technological know-how.

In his speech at the Hudson Institute on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence laid out a series of what he described as China's "malign" activities - and alleged some of them were created to target voters in the 2018 election.

His speech marked a sharpened U.S. approach toward China that goes beyond the bitter trade war between the world's two biggest economies and includes disputes about cyber activities, Taiwan, freedom of the seas and human rights.

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"As we speak, Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States."

Additionally, Pence warned of the influence by Chinese media outlets, warning that China Radio broadcasts in American cities, while China Global Television Network reached more than 75 million Americans.

Last week, President Donald Trump accused China of attempting to interfere in USA politics.

According to Pence, the USA intelligence community says China is "targeting US state and local governments and officials to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy".

Pence accused the Chinese of suppressing its citizens at home with the creation of "an unparalleled surveillance state", of brutally repressing religious minorities and of oppressing countries overseas through loan programs that favor Beijing and leave those nations beholden to China.

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Pence alleged that China was waging a sophisticated influence campaign aimed at swaying the November 6 elections against Trump's Republican Party in retaliation for his trade policies against Beijing. The two countries have imposed increasingly severe tariffs on each other. "For example, Google should immediately end development of the "Dragonfly" app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers".

Pence also slammed China's militarization of contested areas in the South and East China Sea, its practice of "debt diplomacy" in developing countries, and its efforts to convince other nations to sever ties with Taiwan.

Mr Pence also joined other USA officials in denouncing Beijing's crackdown on minority Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

He accused Beijing of "reckless harassment" in an incident on Sunday in which a Chinese naval vessel almost collided with a USA destroyer near the Spratly islands.

"We will not be intimidated", Mr Pence said of the operation, the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters. "We will not stand down", the text said.

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China has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions.