Taking a page from the U.S. President’s own playbook, China on Thursday denounced a U.S. newspaper report that it is listening to Donald Trump’s phone calls as “fake news,” and suggested he exchange his iPhone for a cellphone made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not provide any evidence or cite any specifics in her dismissal of the report in The New York Times. China tightly censors domestic media and routinely rejects critical foreign media reporting about the ruling Communist Party as biased or fabricated.
“Firstly, The New York Times should know that such report just provides another piece of evidence that the NYT is making fake news,” Ms. Hua said at a daily news briefing. In accusing the newspaper of fabricating news, Ms. Hua used language similar to Mr. Trump’s, who has often accused the “failing” New York Times of fabricating stories.
“Secondly, I suggest they replace their iPhone with Huawei ones if they are really concerned about security issues,” Ms. Hua said.
A 2012 report by a congressional panel said Huawei’s equipment was a security risk.
If the U.S. is still concerned about security, Mr. Trump could “abandon all modern communication devices and cut off contact with the outside completely,” Ms. Hua said.
The Times reported that American intelligence reports said Chinese and Russian spies are listening in when Mr. Trump calls friends on one of his iPhones and is using the information to try to influence him and impact administration policy.
Mr. Trump pushed back against the idea that he uses insecure cellphones, tweeting on Thursday that he only uses government phones “and have only one seldom used government cell phone.”
China has long been accused of efforts to target U.S. government, military and commercial entities with cyberattacks. In 2015, a massive hack of the federal Office of Personnel Management, widely blamed on China’s government, compromised personal information of more than 21 million current, former and prospective federal employees, including those in the Pentagon.