The Trump administration has been stepping up tactics to demonstrate the president’s disapproval of China’s COVID-19 response.
US President Donald Trump escalated his war of words against China this morning by floating the idea of cutting the United States’ relationship with its top trade partner over China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, or as he likes to call it, the “Chinese virus.”
“There are many things we could do. We could cut off the whole relationship,” Trump said during an interview on American news channel FOX Business today, May 14.
“Now, if you did, what would happen? You’d save $500 billion,” he said, perhaps referring to the $557 billion in US imports from China in 2018.
Trump said he was “very disappointed in China” for failing to contain the novel virus.
He recalled the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, when the US inquired about the spread of the virus in China. “We asked to go over and they said no. They didn’t want our help. And I figured that was OK because they must know what they are doing. So it was either stupidity, incompetence, or deliberate.”
Trump has been touting the idea that China withheld information on COVID-19 and claimed earlier this month to have seen evidence that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic. Members of the Republican party have backed up his claims.
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said on May 10, “There’s no question that Xi Jinping and senior officials in the Chinese Communist Party were pressuring the [World Health Organization] all the way back to December to undersell the risk of this virus.”
“Look, they knew in China early on, probably as early as the early days of December, that this virus was both highly contagious among humans and it was very deadly for certain people. Yet they wanted to save face,” Cotton said.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also said on May 10 that “China hid the virus from the world behind the shield of the World Health Organization.”
The Trump administration has been stepping up tactics to demonstrate the president’s disapproval of China’s handling of COVID-19.
On May 11, the administration cut investment ties between US federal retirement funds and Chinese equities, FOX Business reported. National security adviser Robert O’Brien and Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow penned a letter to US Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia saying the White House does not want the Thrift Savings Plan, a federal employee retirement fund, to invest in Chinese equities.
Scalia then wrote to Michael Kennedy, the chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, saying investments in China pose “investment risk and national security” risks.
As the Trump administration continues its anti-China campaign, COVID-19 cases and deaths are stacking up in the US as citizens enjoy relaxed restrictions in some states and defy stay-at-home orders in others.
Cases in the US top 1.4 million, nearly one-third of the world’s total cases. The death toll has climbed upwards of 86,000, with the country reporting thousands of new fatalities every day.