Bolton claims Trump asked China for re-election help

John Bolton book: China loves it for embarrassing Donald Trump, but not the parts about Xi Jinping

This has also been true in China, where state media has been happy to play up many of Bolton’s exposé details. However, not every part of “The Room Where It Happened” is considered so palatable behind the Great Firewall.
When it comes to Bolton’s allegations that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for reelection to help and voiced approval for mass detention camps in the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang, Chinese media has largely stayed quiet. The diplomats have been equally tight-lipped, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian only commenting to say that China had “no intention” to interfere in US elections and that the Trump administration “clearly sought” Beijing’s position on Xinjiang.
Those statements were made at a news conference on June 18, in response to a question from CNN, but are notably missing from an official transcript of the event. published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. MOFA transcripts often leave out questions on sensitive issues.
The only coverage of Bolton’s allegations about Xinjiang and election interference in mainstream Chinese media appeared in the English-language Global Times, a state-backed nationalist tabloid geared toward a foreign audience. The paper accused Bolton of being an “anti-China hardliner” who was seeking to “smear” Beijing and “further muddy the waters of US domestic politics.”

Online censorship

Limits on Bolton’s China revelations go beyond covering the issue: there is evidence of book discussion being censored on two of the biggest platforms on the Chinese internet.

Users on Weibo – a Twitter-like service – complained they were unable to comment on the book or share passages from it, while on WeChat, China’s largest messaging app, posts about Bolton appeared to be hidden or deleted. CNN was able to upload a screenshot of the book cover to WeChat, but no contacts could see the resulting post.

It is unclear what exactly triggers the censorship, as some posts about the book, including reports in Chinese media, are permissible.

Yan Duan, an office worker in Beijing, said she was locked out of her WeChat account after sharing a PDF of the book in a group message. She received the notification: “As this WeChat account is suspected of disseminating false information, the current login is disabled.”

“A friend of mine expressed interest in the book, so I thought I could directly forward the file,” she said, having received it from another contact on WeChat herself. “It seemed like there was a window of censorship. The file was sharable earlier. But afterward, I heard a lot of incidents where the messages got hidden or the sender got kicked out like me.”

Representatives for Sina and Tencent, which operate Weibo and WeChat, respectively, did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Ask the US’

The Great Firewall – and Chinese censorship in general – is a black box, and the exact purpose of any particular block can be hard to ascertain, whether it’s the work of individual censors or a top-down order to manage coverage.

This is especially the case on a topic where some discussion is allowed, but certain elements are off limits.

According to Tetsushi Takahashi, China bureau chief for the Nikkei newspaper, a report on Japanese public broadcaster NHK about Bolton was blacked out in China. Foreign television channels, including CNN, are often censored in this fashion.

“I thought the book, released on Tuesday, worked in China’s favor. After all, Bolton describes Trump as unfit for the presidency,” Takahashi. wrote this week. “The feed cut off when they showed Trump at the US-China summit in June 2019, when he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy more American farm products. There is something Xi might want to hide: According to Bolton, the Chinese leader said. He wants to work with Trump for another six years, assuming he’ll be reelected. But Xi’s second term as president expires in March 2023. ‘Another six years’ means Xi is already counting on an extension. ”
It seems clear that China would rather the discussion remain focused on Trump, not Beijing. In one response to a question about Bolton that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published online, spokesman Zhao said: “You may need to ask the US side for what was mentioned in the book.”