China, Russia and Trump

America’s biggest adversaries evidently want Donald Trump to win the 2024 presidential election.

Vladimir Putin’s preference for Trump has long been clear. And now China’s government is taking steps to help Trump’s presidential campaign.

As my colleagues Tiffany Hsu and Steven Lee Myers report:

Covert Chinese accounts are masquerading online as American supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, promoting conspiracy theories, stoking domestic divisions and attacking President Biden ahead of the election in November, according to researchers and government officials.

The accounts signal a potential tactical shift in how Beijing aims to influence American politics, with more of a willingness to target specific candidates and parties, including Mr. Biden ….

Some of the Chinese accounts impersonate fervent Trump fans, including one on X that purported to be “a father, husband and son” who was “MAGA all the way!!” The accounts mocked Mr. Biden’s age and shared fake images of him in a prison jumpsuit, or claimed that Mr. Biden was a Satanist pedophile while promoting Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

This effort has been modest so far, and it remains unclear whether it will grow — or whether Beijing-linked accounts will later try to balance their approach with anti-Trump posts. For now, though, at least parts of the Chinese government appear to have picked a side in the 2024 election. In today’s newsletter, I’ll explain what China and Russia hope to gain from a second Trump term.

Putin’s reasons to prefer Trump seem obvious (even if Putin claims otherwise). Biden leads an international coalition opposing Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and U.S. support has enabled Ukraine’s much smaller military to stall Russia’s advance. Trump has suggested that he will end this support. A central part of Putin’s war strategy, intelligence experts believe, is to wait for Ukraine’s Western allies to tire of the war.

China’s reasons to prefer Trump are less obvious. Trump, after all, took a more combative stance toward China than any U.S. president since Richard Nixon re-established ties with Beijing. The Associated Press and Washington Post have noted that Beijing seems unhappy with both Biden and Trump.

But there appear to be at least two major ways in which China’s leaders could benefit from a second Trump term.

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