China accused US Vice President Mike Pence of slandering the country with "baseless" allegations Friday, after he delivered a scathing speech in Washington claiming Beijing was trying to covertly influence US politics for its own political gain.
Pence launched his full-throated attack in a speech to the Hudson Institute, accusing China of everything from predatory economic practices to military aggression to advance Chinese interests at the expense of the current world order.
"Beijing is pursuing a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the President," Pence said. The vice president cited US intelligence agencies but offered little evidence to back up his claims.
Beijing quickly responded in a statement Friday, accusing Pence of "malicious slander" and urging the US to "correct its wrongdoing."
"This is nothing but speaking on hearsay evidence, confusing right and wrong and creating something out of thin air," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in the statement.
"We are committed to joining hands with the US to work for non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation."
A senior official in the Trump administration official told reporters that Pence's speech reflects a US decision to take a more assertive approach in dealing with China that is more "constructive and results oriented."
The official said the re-evaluation came after China failed to respond as expected to the offer of greater political engagement by improving human rights and offering reciprocity on markets and intellectual property.
In his speech, Pence portrayed China as a country determined to use all the tools at its disposal, linking issues around military, trade and domestic politics, to counter current US policy.
"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," he said.
While Pence and President Donald Trump have both been critical of China publicly, Pence's broadside Thursday was unprecedented in that he portrayed the United States and China as two countries locked in an inevitable direct competition with each other.
Analysts say that Chinese leaders have long feared that Washington policy in the Asia Pacific region was designed to box in China and contain its rise, and believe that Pence's speech is likely to fuel those concerns.