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Beijing Warns Clinton Not to Bash China During Campaign

Two Chinese Communist Party-controlled newspapers published an indirect warning to Hillary Clinton not to criticize China during her campaign for president.

A commentary published Friday in both the official Party newspaper the People’s Daily and the xenophobic Global Times predicted Clinton "won’t be nice to China, at least during her campaign."

"Clinton doesn't want to be seen as ‘soft’ on China," the report by New York-based Global Times correspondent Rong Xiaoqing states.

The report then went on to quote from Clinton’s 2014 book Hard Choices, in which Clinton called on Asian states to form an alliance against China and criticized China’s state-control censorship, or the Great Fire Wall. The book also mentioned Clinton’s confrontation with Chinese leader Hu Jintao about the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

"The attacks have continued," the report said. "Clinton recently used her Twitter account to criticize China for detaining five feminist activists."

The article then said Clinton’s efforts to form an alliance of smaller Asian states is "at best weak," and will be undermined by the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The commentary then urges Clinton to heed the advice of former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, whose new book, Dealing with China, calls for accommodating the emerging communist economic superpower.

"Clinton should keep in mind a warning from Henry Paulson," the article states. "When asked … what he'd like to hear the presidential candidates say about China, the former U.S. treasury secretary quipped: ‘I'd like them to say as little as possible.’"

The Global Times commentary came several days after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Clinton’s run for the presidency is an internal U.S. matter. But Lei also suggested that politicians should not undermine U.S.-China relations.

Asked to comment on Clinton’s announced plan to seek the presidency, Hong said: "The U.S. presidential election is an internal affair of the U.S."

Hong went on to say that the development of U.S.-China relations "is in the fundamental interests of the two peoples, and helpful to safeguard peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific and the world."

"We are willing to join hands with the U.S. to strive for constantly new progress in the building of the new model of major-country relationship between China and America," he said.

The state-run media report quoted a 2012 Washington Post editorial that argued an iron law of U.S. politics is that "you can’t go wrong bashing China."

Clinton angered China in 2010 when as secretary of state she said the United States has a national interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, which China is claiming as its territorial waters.

"The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea," Clinton said during a 2010 visit to Vietnam.

The Global Times report said one of the "thorniest" issues for Clinton will be her past links to Chinese money, quoting a July 2014 joint investigation by the Washington Examiner and Judicial Watch.

That probe found that Bill Clinton gave four speeches in China or to Chinese-sponsored U.S. entities for a total of $1.7 million. The Clinton Foundation also received donations of between $750,000 and $1.75 million from groups with interests in China.

During the late 1990s, President Bill Clinton also become embroiled in the so-called "Chinagate" scandal involving a covert Chinese influence campaign targeting the Clinton administration.

Illegal campaign contributions involving Chinese agents were detailed in the 1998 book Year of the Rat, by Edward Timperlake and William C. Triplett II.

"When we were writing Year of the Rat about illegal contributions to the Clinton campaigns by Chinese military intelligence in 1998, we were following the trail to Bill Clinton but we kept running across lines to Mrs. Clinton," Triplett said in an email.

"When the Clintons joked about their time in office as a dual effort, that extended to the illegal campaign contributions as well," said Triplett, a former chief Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Global Times article also noted Clinton’s close relationship with Chinese-American fundraiser Norman Hsu, who was arrested in 2007 for illegal fundraising. Hsu was a campaign bundler for Clinton’s 2008 campaign, which returned $850,000 in campaign contributions raised by Hsu.

The report said Clinton hoped to raise $2.5 billion for the 2016 presidential election campaign.

"There is no doubt Clinton has the ability to raise whatever she needs without crossing the line," the report said. "But the astronomical spending will likely bring up all the money-related questions and memories and mean that Clinton has an incentive to keep her distance from China."

Former State Department official John Tkacik said he agrees with the Chinese assessment of Clinton.

"I'm not a big fan of Secretary Clinton, but I have to admit that of all the candidates so far, it's a paradox that the ones with consistent records of China-skepticism are Democrats: Mrs. Clinton and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb."

Tkacik said Obama administration policies toward China have softened "dangerously" since Clinton left the State Department in 2012 and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stepped down in 2013.

Tkacik said he is not surprised Beijing is expressing alarm at a possible Hillary Clinton presidency, "and I predict they will get increasingly more vocal in the coming months."

"I have a lot of complaints about Mrs. Clinton's domestic policies, and the rather paranoid personal habits with which she conducts government business, but I cannot fault her instincts on China," he said.