China joins Russia in manipulating US public opinion

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The United States will always be vulnerable to manipulation as long as we’re a free and open society, governed, at the most basic level, by public opinion.

That’s not lost on Russia, which uses every tool available to meddle in foreign affairs to its own advantage.

But neither is the opportunity lost on China, which, while it is heavily dependent on the US to keep its own economy going, is not above attempting to influence our political process.

For example, after President Trump imposed tariffs on solar panels and washing machines in January, and threatened another $50 billion in sanctions in March, China struck at Trump’s red-state base.

China imposed a temporary 179 percent tariff on American sorghum, an important crop in Nebraska and other states where it’s an important alternative to water-hungry crops like corn.

Tariffs, of course, hurt both the buyer and seller; China depends on American milo for livestock feed and for making baijiu, a popular liquor.

China has also threatened tariffs on soybeans, our largest agricultural export to China.

While the majority of Americans support steps to correct the trade deficit with China, and more than half are in favor of the tariff’s Trump proposes — which have grown to $150 billion — most of the burden falls on agricultural states that supported the president in the 2016 election.

Despite Trump’s promise to “make it up later” to farmers hurt by the impending trade war, farm country’s patience isn’t without limits.

This year’s mid-term elections will help China determine how effective its strategy may be.

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