United States Vice President Mike Pence claimed on Thursday that China was trying to influence the outcome of the country’s future elections to remove President Donald Trump from power. Pence also said that Russian interference in US elections “pales in comparison” with Chinese meddling.

“China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 [mid-term] elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential election,” he said at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington DC, The Guardian reported. “To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working, and China wants a different American president. China is meddling in America’s democracy.”

Pence accused China of mobilising “covert actors, front groups and propaganda outlets” to change US citizens’ perception of Chinese policies.

But China labelled the US vice president’s claims “unwarranted accusations” which “slandered China”. This is nothing but speaking on hearsay evidence, confusing right and wrong and creating something out of thin air,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Friday. “The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it. “We urge the US to correct its wrongdoing, stop groundlessly accusing and slandering China and harming China’s interests and China-US ties, and take concrete actions to maintain the sound and steady development of China-US relations.”

The US and China have engaged in a trade war for months. On September 24, the two countries’ new tariffs on each other’s goods kicked in. The Trump administration said it will begin to levy new tariffs of 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. The tariffs were to come into force on Monday and then rise to 25% on January 1, the White House said. In retaliation, China imposed taxes on $60 billion worth American products.