NEW YORK—Donald Trump has repeatedly refrained from calling out Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election in his favor, even when standing beside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. But on Wednesday, he didn’t hesitate to condemn China for, as he put it, “attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election … against my administration.”
With Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi sitting nearby during a U.S.-chaired session of the United Nations Security Council, the American president explained that the Chinese “do not want me or us to win, because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade, and we are winning on trade, we are winning at every level. We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election.” Trump did not elaborate on his government’s findings regarding China’s alleged attempted interference. Wang seemed to literally shrug off Trump’s charges, asserting later in the session that China’s long-standing policy is to not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.
Trump reserved most of his ire for Iran during his opening statement, and even spoke warmly of his collaboration with Chinese President Xi Jinping in addressing North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. But the confrontation between Trump and Wang was in keeping with one of the deepest-running and most disruptive themes of this year’s UN General Assembly: the increasingly pitched rivalry between the world’s two superpowers.