Does China have Trump's number? Photo illustration: iStock, AFP
China has access to the US telecommunications market, but the same is not true for US operators in China, according to a US Senate subcommittee's report. Image: iStock, AFP

Trick or treat has come early for Donald Trump. With Halloween just around the corner, Beijing has jokingly suggested that the United States President should ditch his Apple iPhone for a Chinese model after denying a report that China was bugging his private calls.

The claims were made in the New York Times, which suggested that China and Russia, were listening in to Trump’s telephone conversations to gain an insight into his thinking.

White House aides, the newspaper stressed, had warned Trump that his calls were being intercepted.

Naturally, the president dismissed the report in a tweet as “a new Fake Story.”

But the Times reported:

“China, in particular, hoped to discern what Trump thinks and who shapes his thinking as the two countries fight a protracted trade war. Officials in China regularly quiz American visitors on the subject, saying they remain confused by the administration’s convoluted, contradictory and shifting views and positions.”

Responding to the claims, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokeswomen Hua Chunying showed flashes of humor at a regular press briefing.

“If they are very worried about iPhones being tapped, they can use Huawei,” she said. “If they are still not at ease, then in order to have an entirely secure device, they can stop using all forms of modern communication devices and cut off all ties with the outside world.”

The Huawei remark was particularly withering since the mobile phone giant has appeared on the radar of US intelligence agencies.

Still, Hua’s comments were not lost on the Global Times, the Chinese-English language newspaper run by the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily.

The tabloid described her as a  “sorceress able to wield godlike magic.”

“Hua Chunying fired three shots,” Global Times said. “Every shot was more lethal than the former one.”

Now, that is a chilling thought.

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