Top figures in China’s state-run news media and foreign policy experts say President Donald Trump “paid the price” with his COVID-19 infection, but now predict a coming increase in “China-bashing” from his administration.
The editor-in-chief of the Global Times state-run media publication, Hu Xijin, remarked Friday that the U.S. president and first lady Melania Trump “paid the price” for downplaying the effects of coronavirus and instead pointing blame at China for their role in the global pandemic. Several Chinese foreign policy experts predicted the Trump administration will worsen its hardline stances toward the Chinese Communist Party on trade, technology deals and development of a vaccine.
The Chinese government’s foreign ministry offered an official response to Trump’s announcement of having contracted COVID-19 Friday morning, offering both the president and Melania a “speedy recovery.” But others in the state-run media apparatus were far more critical of the news.
“President Trump and the first lady have paid the price for his gamble to play down the COVID-19. The news shows the severity of the US’ pandemic situation. It will impose a negative impact on the image of Trump and the US, and may also negatively affect his reelection,” Hu tweeted Friday.
The state-run media chief later retweeted the first official Chinese response to Trump’s diagnosis, with Beijing’s foreign ministry issuing a statement hoping for a quick recovery for the Trumps.
Video: Trump received ‘beautiful’ letter from Kim Jong Un (The Washington Post)
“Saddened to learn #President and the #FirstLady of the #US tested positive. Hope they both have a speedy recovery and will be fine,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted Friday afternoon.
Foreign policy experts at Chinese universities said the “October surprise,” a term referring to anything which could alter a U.S. election, is “definitely bad news for China.” Academics expressed concern he will use his quarantine time off the campaign trail to focus his criticism on the Chinese government’s role in spreading the virus late last year.
Pang Zhongying, a specialist in international relations at Ocean University of China, told the South China Morning Post Friday, “Trump has made China-bashing a priority for his campaign and repeatedly used the ‘China virus’ to shirk his responsibility over his handling of the still raging pandemic. My biggest concern is that Trump is very likely to seize the opportunity to redouble his attacks against China, and as a result to ramp up pressure on China.”
Hu’s publication, the Global Times, penned a Friday piece which floated warnings that Trump’s COVID-19 infection may actually help his upcoming election chances against former Vice President Joe Biden. Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the publication Friday that Trump will use his recovery as a campaign talking point. Members of the Trump administration have long accused the Chinese government of covering up the Wuhan laboratory’s role in the outset of the pandemic.
“All election campaigning activities have been suspended until President Trump recovers, and he will use this opportunity to draw all the attention and spotlight he can during this time,” the academic said.
Earlier this year, Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming said U.S. politicians “will say anything to get elected.” White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said in June that the Trump administration believes China intentionally sent its citizens out into the world as a means of spreading the virus earlier this year. Navarro said Trump’s ongoing trade war with the second-largest economy in the world is justified because the Chinese government cannot be trusted to play fair.
Georgia Republican senator Kelly Loeffler on Friday responded to Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis by tweeting, “Remember, China gave this virus to our President @realdonaldtrump and First Lady @FLOTUS. WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comments and reaction Friday, but did not receive a reply by publication time.