After complimenting Vladimir Putin, and inviting the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s email servers, what was initially just political mudslinging from disappointed liberals has turned into a serious investigation with mounting evidence against the commander in chief. President trump promised America first, and yet seems to have a way of giving preference to the Kremlin. Russia looms large in discussions about the outcome of the 2016 election, and people have good reason to be skeptical. But as talk of Trump’s ties to Russia continue, another country, far more powerful than Russia by almost every measure, has lurked in the background avoiding the scrutiny it deserves.

china may seem like a strange country to point the finger at. After all, American propaganda will tell you that Russia is the root of all evil and that China’s ambitions of hegemony don’t exist (or are benign to US interests). But scapegoats can be used to hide from politically inconvenient truths. Though the full extent and nature of Trump’s foreign ties is still a matter of controversy, China should not be allowed to escape scrutiny.

The simple fact of the matter is, China is the country who stands to gain the most from Trump's policies

A lot of the inquiry about Trump's foreign conflicts of interests are overlooking what should be an obvious question. Who is benefiting? The most reasonable answer at this point, is China.

While the traditional boogie men; Russia, Iran, Syria, and North Korea may sound scarier, they simply are not able to fill America’s shoes, or pose a threat beyond limiting Washington’s nosy and interventionist tendencies. They lack the economic, political, and in the case of all except Russia, military capacity, to challenge America on a global scale.

China, on the other hand, is well positioned to benefit from American collapse by serving as its replacement. With the largest GDP in the world adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), a growing (and already second largest) military budget, and trade policies designed to monopolize strategic industries, they face the US with international competition.

America has always taken a generally passive, appeasement oriented approach to China. But some policies both enacted and proposed, were exceptions that kept China in check to some degree. The TPP, Freedom of Navigation operations in the South China Sea, and leadership in addressing climate change cemented America’s place as both the hard power and soft power hegemon, limiting China’s ability to achieve total global dominance and reducing the likelihood they would ever become more than equals with the United States. But President Trump is changing that. Withdrawal from the Paris agreement has hurt US soft power, Trump’s alienation of allies and ethnocentric world view have reduced US prestige, and his concessions to China exchanged for assistance with North Korea (far less dangerous and powerful than China) have eroded US staying power and reduced confidence in American leadership.

Trump’s isolationist trade policies are jeopardizing US economic leadership and pushing countries into China’s economic sphere of influence, simultaneously alienating allies that could be used to build free trade networks excluding China to mitigate the effect of their mercantilist trade policies on global markets and US national security. It is almost as if Trump’s policies are designed from the ground up to dismantle US hegemony while wearing a nationalist mask as a disguise, leaving an empty void on the world stage that only China is big enough and strong enough to fill. Russia, on the other hand seems to not be receiving as much in the way of special favors from the US. American missile strikes in Syria as well as the preservation of sanctions that some thought would be lifted, have drawn the Kremlin’s ire, and perplexed those who believe Trump is a puppet of Putin.

Russia may yet have some influence in the administration. But unlike China, it does not seem to have enough to prevent Trump from standing up to them.

Coincidence or collusion? The facts suggest the latter

Pro-China thinkers will of course counter with their usual arguments. Perhaps this illusion that China is not a threat will prevail, or perhaps they now support Trump because he has become pro-China. Maybe Trump supporters will invent alternative facts about how Trump’s actions may be part of a long-term game to diminish China. Maybe the President is taking a lesson from Nixon’s so called, “madman theory” to confuse China about his true motives. Other views and explanations are bound to exist.

What is to say this isn’t a mere coincidence, or a case of Trump just not knowing what he is doing? The answer to these questions lie in the fact that, independent of Trump’s decisions, reasonable suspicion exists for such a connection based on the circumstances under which the US-China relationship and the election scandal are taking place. Trump’s business connections in China, China’s long history of subversive activity, and their warm relations with Russia all make Chinese activity in the executive branch among the most logical explanations for current policies and events.

Trump’s conflicts of interests in Russia lie at the center of accusations of collusion and the same can be said about China.

Trump’s decision to change his stance on the One-China policy at least in part in exchange for trademarks, raises eyebrows. Members of Trump’s family such as his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner have been hard at work cozying up with Chinese investors. Ivanka’s businesses in China have flourished under her father’s administration. But what is really concerning is the fact that the Chinese seem to view family ties as a door in to otherwise missed business opportunities. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were even invited to visit Beijing. Fascination with Jared Kushner has grown in China and his sister pitched a Jersey City housing development to Chinese investors using family ties as a selling point.

Trump and those close to him have a lot to lose if he really puts, “America first”, and China is not afraid to exploit this.

Of course, part of the reason the whole Russian story shocked everyone is because it was an unprecedented attack on American democracy. For instances involving Russia, this may be the case, but if China has influence in the Trump administration it would just be business as usual. In fact, China has an extensive history of meddling with US domestic affairs, political and otherwise, part of the most extensive propaganda, espionage, and subversion campaign ever seen in modern history. Michael Pillsbury’s book, The Hundred Year Marathon, explains, the Chinese government uses its very strong control over the media in the country to shape perceptions about Beijing, controlling what messages get out about China to both domestic and foreign audience.

A secret department with a $12 Billion annual budget and a politburo standing committee, led by the #3 leader in China, dedicates itself to this mission, and works closely with the United Front Work Department, which has its own intelligence gathering and propaganda capabilities. One of the main functions of this secretive apparatus is to influence US policies, and it has been brilliantly successful. One example sighted by the book, was the use of this program to influence the US vote to allow China to join the World Trade Organization by suppressing information about China’s absolute opposition to relinquishing its socialist economy. This line was necessary to gain the support of US congress, who was operating on the premise that cooperation with China would lead to or be in exchange for, reform.

China also worked endlessly to demonize the Dali Lama to influence President Clinton’s policies towards Tibet, as well as to undermine American support of human rights advocates in China. This is not all, in fact, it barely scratches the surface. China is one of the leading sources of cyber-attacks against the US. But more directly relevant to the current situation, is the fact that they have made efforts to influence US elections in the past, notably during the re-election of President Bill Clinton, where they sought to gain more influence in US politics through funneling illegal money into campaign efforts.

This isn’t to downplay Russia’s role, but rather to understand that Russia isn’t the only country influencing domestic politics.

As such, the size of the threat must be kept in perspective. In fact, Russia’s role in the election begins to make more sense when the possibility of Chinese interference is considered. In recent years, Russia’s relationship with the United States has deteriorated due to American efforts to undermine core Russian interests. The endless scapegoating of Russia combined with sanctions and the expansion of NATO has made Russia increasingly nervous, not to mention that many of their efforts to extend an olive branch to the US have backfired. Unlike the US with China, however, Russia learns from its mistakes and has since sought alternative partners. China has been happy to fill this role with more trade; especially in the areas of weapons and natural resources, contributing to a major strengthening of Sino-Russian relations.

One of the main concerns about Trump’s connection to Russia is how Trump could be deliberately undermining NATO, in which case Russia could easily become the regional hegemon in Europe. This would be an enticing deal for Russia to cooperate with China who seeks to replace the US as the worlds superpower. In exchange for Russia meddling in the election, and using its status as a scapegoat to divert attention away from China, Russia could have been offered hegemony over Europe by the rising global hegemon. This may sound speculative, but when connecting the dots between the goals of Russia, China, and Trump, it makes sense.

Finding the truth requires looking beyond the obvious and considering all perspectives

Many will wonder why the president who was labeled an ultra-nationalist would do such a thing. People were afraid of a fascist 2nd coming of Hitler, not a pacifist sellout. However, Trump’s nationalist rhetoric is the perfect mask; a reverse psychology tool keeping people off China’s, and to a lesser extent Russia’s scent. He serves to pacify the growing nationalist movement in the United States with inflammatory rhetoric, nostalgia, and a fake vision of reviving US national prestige when he is actually destroying what is left of it. It would all fit into China’s grand strategy very well.

Yet despite this compelling case, US intelligence agencies and congress have refused to consider China’s role, or if they have it is not public. Yes, there are other explanations, and no not every aspect of this proposed scenario has irrefutable evidence supporting it as the only possible sequence of events. But if China’s role cannot be proven, then that must mean it can be debunked. There are simply too many unanswered questions, suspicious conflicts of interests, and bizarre circumstances for this to be overlooked. Russia is a convenient scapegoat and China is the favorite sacred cow for the monied interests in the US. But the survival of the US political system relies on accountability, which right now seems to be entirely subject to political convenience.