It is the latest repetition of a dynamic that has taken place in the three years that Trump has managed America’s relationship with China. Armed with the contradicting views of his closest advisers, the president has alternated between praising China and his leader Xi Jinping and dealing with the country over trade practices.
Trump is now in a new fight with China over the story of the coronavirus pandemic that is raging around the world and stalling the economy. It’s a struggle that could help the president reelect if he criticizes that his government’s sluggish response to the coronavirus has resulted in a lack of testing and medical care. Even though Trump is ambiguous, his campaign, which has been reinforced by conservative groups and Trump allies, has persecuted China.
“America is under attack – not just from an invisible virus, but also from the Chinese,” the Trump campaign recently wrote in an email.
Trump allies said the President’s sway is how he manages a rival power.
“It is strategic,” said an external consultant. “China is a clear enemy. He builds it up to tear it down. The criticism doesn’t matter. “
“Carrot and whip,” said Kelly Sadler, a former White House employee who now works at America First Policies and supports Trump’s agenda. “It’s a pull-and-a-push relationship with China. President Trump has always been very polite to President Xi and the Chinese people. He also worked hard to help the Americans by calling on China’s unfair trading practices and bringing them to justice with tariffs. “
Trump recently used the carrot and withdrew from the term “Chinese virus” on Monday evening. The shift occurred amid reports of an increase in racist and xenophobic behavior towards Asian Americans. It also came after a senior Chinese official said his government should not put forward a conspiracy theory that the corona virus originated in the United States.
But the Trump administration in the broader sense has not given up its debt-China message. The State Department on Wednesday pushed Inclusion of the phrase “Wuhan virus” – a reference to the Chinese city from which the corona virus originated – in a joint statement by the group of seven countries.
And as always, China could soon be back in Trump’s crosshairs as a media Reports It turns out that officials are again suppressing the total number of cases and refusing to test patients to preserve the narrative that they have had the worst outbreak of the coronavirus.
The White House and Vice President Mike Pence’s office, who heads the Coronavirus Task Force, did not respond to a request for comment.
Ryan Hass, director of the Obama-era National Security Council for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, said Trump’s references to China were “often political-driven”.
“If it is beneficial to praise Xi Jinping for gaining Xi’s support for trade or export issues, President Trump will do so,” said Hass, now a member of the center-left Brookings institution. “As the walls of criticism approach the Trump administration’s response to Covid-19, he will … try to blame China for its failed initial efforts to curb efforts in Wuhan.”
Trump constantly criticized China when he was on the campaign in 2016 and promised to defeat the so-called enemy, which cost US jobs, spied on US companies and stole US technology.
But when Trump took office in 2017, he began lovingly talking about Xi, his “good friend,” and described their relationship as “exceptional.”
There are competing camps in China within the Trump administration where Trump is advised.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien are both Hawkish voices that focus on the threat the country poses.
Others, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, are more concerned about maintaining valuable economic ties with the country. Some of Trump’s external friends, including John Thornton, former president of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, and Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the global corporation Blackstone Group, also fall into this camp.
However, sometimes Trump seems to ignore all of his helpers and friends and only listen to Xi, the Chinese leader.
“He’s drawn to authoritarian leaders,” said Michael Green, an Asia specialist for the NSC during the George W. Bush administration.
In January, Trump received information about the corona virus from both own secret servicesand Xi. In public, Trump sided with Xi’s optimistic narrative about the worse warnings from his intelligence officials, praising Xi and China more than a dozen times for dealing with the corona virus.
“I am confident that they will work very hard,” Trump told a radio station in Phoenix on February 19. “I know President Xi. I get on very well with him. We just did a great deal, which will be a lot of business for Arizona and every other place. But they are very, very hard working and I think the numbers will be getting better over time. “
That started to change in March.
Those around Trump, including Pompeo, new chief of staff Mark Meadows, allies on Capitol Hill and conservatives on TV, called the coronavirus the “Wuhan virus” or the “Chinese virus”.
“There was some discussion about China and what they knew and when they knew it,” said Pompeo. “The world has the right to know.”
China initially struck back, and the country’s State Department spokesman said the U.S. Army may have played a role in spreading the virus.
“It could be the US Army that brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” tweeted Zhao Lijian. “Be transparent! Make your data public! The US owes us an explanation! “
At that point, Trump took over the “Chinese virus”. A Washington Post photographer took a photo of Trump’s notes from a press conference last week, where the word “Corona” in the corona virus was crossed out and replaced with the word “Chinese.” The president dismissed the allegations that the term was inappropriately divisive and racist.
The president’s external allies quickly took the stance.