China Interfered in 2022 US Midterm Elections Because It Believed Joe Biden Wouldn't Retaliate, Intel Report Says

By Jace Dela Cruz

Dec 20, 2023 04:39 AM EST

A newly declassified US intelligence report revealed that China escalated its interference efforts in the 2022 US midterm elections because Beijing believed that President Joe Biden's administration would not retaliate.

China Meddles in the 2022 US Midterm Elections: Report

According to the report prepared for the National Intelligence Council in December 2022 and released this week, China's government "tacitly approved efforts" to influence several American midterm races last year, Business Insider reported.

(Photo : BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrive for a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' week in Woodside, California on November 15, 2023

The Chinese leadership reportedly ordered officials to focus on the US Congress as it viewed it as a center of anti-China activity that adversely affect bilateral relations.

According to the report, senior Chinese leaders have been given broad directives since 2020 to increase operations in influencing US policy and public opinion to shift in favor of China. 

The report suggests that China believed it could operate more freely during the midterms than the 2020 presidential election, as it anticipated less scrutiny and a milder response from the current administration.

"PRC (People's Republic of China) officials believed that Beijing was under less scrutiny during the midterms and because they did not expect the current Administration to retaliate as severely as they feared in 2020," the report noted.

China also reportedly saw the 2022 midterm elections as a chance to portray "the US democratic model as chaotic, ineffective, and unrepresentative."

The intelligence report further noted that the Chinese government frequently directed PRC messaging to focus on Americans' divisions on social issues, such as abortion and gun control.

READ ALSO: US, China Risk a 'New Cold War' as Economic and Trade Conflicts Escalate, IMF Official Warns

China Refrained From Influencing the Midterms in Favor of US Political Party

The report said that Chinese officials identified specific members of Congress with anti-China views or those who support Beijing.

However, the report noted that China's government refrained from endorsing a comprehensive campaign to favor a particular political party during the midterms or challenge the legitimacy of election results. 

According to the report, China viewed the risks associated with such efforts as far greater than the rewards.

"Because they (Chinese officials) were wary of exposure of their influence efforts in the United States, (they) did not want to become embroiled in US politics, and concluded that Congress would remain adversarial to Beijing regardless of which party was in control," the intelligence report noted.

The report also emphasized interference attempts by Russia, Iran, and Cuba during the 2022 midterms, surpassing the level observed in the 2018 midterm elections. 

Russia and Iran reportedly tried to heighten existing sociopolitical tensions in the US and sow distrust in democratic processes via online information operations.

READ MORE: Joe Biden's Meeting With Xi Jinping Could Reduce Uncertainty for US-China Businesses, Analysts Say

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