China censors professor's boast on Beijing's influence over Biden after it goes viral

The incident illustrates the difficulty Mr Joe Biden faces in crafting a China policy.
The incident illustrates the difficulty Mr Joe Biden faces in crafting a China policy.PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - A Chinese professor's speech boasting about Beijing's influence over US President-elect Joe Biden was removed from the country's social media platforms after going viral in the United States, underscoring how sensitive ties between the world's two biggest economies are after strife under Mr Donald Trump.

The speech by Prof Di Dongsheng, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, was delivered in November, and boosted on Monday (Dec 7) after Fox News host Tucker Carlson talked about the remarks and Mr Trump tweeted a clip.

Prof Di, who was speaking at an annual event hosted by the nationalistic Chinese website Guan Video, bragged about Beijing's sway over Wall Street and Mr Biden's son Hunter and said: "Biden is back! Our old game is back."

Mr Carlson seized on the comments on his Monday broadcast as proof that US elites have been working on behalf of China. By Thursday, video of the talk had been removed from Chinese social media and video platforms.

Prof Di said that China "used to know people at the top" in the US financial world.

"We have a network of 'China's old friends' on Wall Street, who had access and control over the DC politicians," Prof Di said, adding that those connections failed to help during the trade war because "Wall Street can't control Trump".

The incident illustrates the difficulty Mr Biden faces in crafting a China policy, after months of efforts by Mr Trump and his supporters to paint the former vice-president as soft on Beijing. Such comments by a high-profile Chinese academic could add to the pressure on the incoming administration to take a harder line.

Prof Di suggested that Mr Hunter Biden was a path to influence over the incoming president, feeding a narrative pushed by Mr Trump and his supporters during the campaign.

"We just need to toss out some olive branch to signal some good will," Prof Di said.

Guan Video caters to young Chinese nationalists, with programmes on politics and foreign affairs that are widely watched on Chinese social media platforms. Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin, who also spoke at the Guan Video event, dismissed Prof Di's claims, commenting multiple times on Mr Trump's tweet.

"There are some Chinese scholars who like to brag and spice up tales about their ties with high-level figures to seek attention and promote oneself," he wrote. "It's unserious to judge China-US relations with stories told by these kind of people."

The dust-up comes after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, addressing the US-China Business Council last week, said the world's two biggest economies needed to work together to create a favourable atmosphere for public opinions on bilateral ties.

They need to "eliminate soil for lies and disinformation" to "form a correct understanding of China-US relations", Mr Wang said.