Becoming a pandemic victim would surely toughen Trump’s resolve to hold China accountable. For Xi, its time to brace for impact.
As the US election campaign enters its final stretch, President Trump, who tested positive for the Covid-19 virus on Friday, was moved to the Walter Reed Medical Center in the suburbs of Washington for what is expected to be a stay of a few days. The news follows the much touted Presidential debate where Trump, who has continually cornered China for the virus, once again squarely blamed the latter for the pandemic. Referring to the virus as the “China plague.”
“It’s China’s fault, it should never have happened.”President Donald Trump
After initially playing down the threat of the virus, President Trump had started accusing China for the pandemic early on in its global onset. He has spoken a lot about Beijing’s initial failures in controlling the virus and has pointedly blamed China for its global repercussions. Trump has also been brazenly vocal about China’s role in unleashing the catastrophic effects the virus in the United States. The virus has resulted in over 200,000 deaths and infected more than of 7.3 million people, including, now, the President himself.
Watch: Trump calls on the world to hold China accountable for coronavirus at UN Address
China’s response till now
The repetitive rhetoric has not been received well by Beijing who has responded by pointing to Washington’s own mishandling of the virus. An op-ed in their state media outlet China Daily denied “unleashing the novel coronavirus on itself or the world.” The article called the idea of using a biological weapon to make your own people be the first to suffer “simply absurd”. Defending Beijing’s response to halt the spread of the virus, the article explicitly asked the Trump administration to stop “scapegoating” Beijing for American problems.
Watch: China famous response video to US – Once upon a virus…
What is also noteworthy is that many countries, like Vietnam and Taiwan closer to China and exposed to the virus much earlier, have actually handled the pandemic far better than the US. Many healthcare workers, national experts and international observers have been quite critical of how Trump reacted to the pandemic.
The news of Trump’s infection immediately sparked a netizen storm in China. It emerged as the most-searched topic on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform. President Trump’s tenure is widely regarded by the Chinese as being the cause of a downward spiral in US-China relations. Although Weibo is heavily censored, initial reactions on the platform ranged from mild sympathy to disbelief and even elation from Weibo users with some joking the news was a “gift for China’s National Day.” Another comment that garnered 55,000 likes within an hour, read: “The whole world rejoices!”
Initial reactions on Weibo saw elation among Weibo users with some joking Trump’s Covid-19 positive report was a “gift for China’s National Day.”
What goes around
Many netizens saw karmic retribution in Trump’s diagnosis, given the POTUS’ record of belittling the threat of the virus. His refusal to wear masks and maintain social distancing in rallies were also derided by commentators. As late as Tuesday, in the presidential debate, Trump had mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask. “I don’t wear a mask like him,” Trump said, gesturing toward Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from him and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Wang Huiyao, the founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, an influential research group in Beijing said the news might become a global reminder of the value of wearing face masks. “He has also had large crowds, shaking hands and greeting people, and he seldom wears a mask,” Wang said. “He probably serves as a good reminder to the whole world that, as U.S. experts have said, it is important to wear a mask.”
Many saw karmic retribution in Trump’s diagnosis, given the POTUS’ record of belittling the threat of the virus.
On a now-deleted post on Twitter, Hu Xijin, editor of the state-backed propaganda tabloid Global Times, wrote that the POTUS and FLOTUS “have paid the price for his gamble to play down COVID-19.” The comment was widely reported in US media.
Beijing, now decidedly nervous, seems to have taken control of the popular narrative–playing down the news of Trump’s diagnosis on major Chinese publications, including People’s Daily and state broadcaster CCTV. Comments have been turned off posts about Trump on Weibo, in what CNN calls “a sure sign of nervousness among censors.”
As the country celebrates its ‘golden week’–an annual 8-day holiday, to mark the Chinese national day on October 1 and the Mid-Autumn Festival, — Beijing is putting out a sober, more official stance through its Foreign Affairs Ministry noting “relevant reports” and wishing “Mr. and Mrs. Trump a speedy recovery.”
Trump Admin to Escalate China Attack
China is, understandably, quiet miffed about being a major baiting issue in the US elections and Trump’s latest diagnosis is unlikely to help steer the narrative in its favor. The Republican administration is very likely to unleash an even more aggressive attack on China for spreading the virus. The taste of things to come seems evident in the latest series of tweets by Trump supporters and enablers.
Trump’s latest diagnosis is unlikely to help steer the pandemic narrative in China’s favor.
Within hours of President Trump’s announcement of his testing positive, Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler tweeted: “Remember: China gave this virus to our President @realDonaldTrump and First Lady @FLOTUS. WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.”
Even more brazen, Trump campaign fundraiser Blair Brandt said: “the Chinese Communist Party has biologically attacked our President.”
US Rep. Mark Walker, ranking Republican member on the House Subcommittee for Intelligence and Counterterrorism, blamed Beijing for interfering with the US elections.
China Sends “Friendly” Signals
While pushing back on the continuous bashing, China is reported to have been signaling its desire to improve relations with the US. PRC officials have sent “friendly” signals to Washington by praising the anti-fascist alliance that won the second world war.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s commemorative speech on the 75th anniversary of the shared World War II victory, credited cooperation with the Allies and other opponents of fascism for the win. According to Aries Li, the Chinese president’s statements seemed to signal “a willingness to reduce modern-day tensions between the United States and China.” Prior to Trump’s diagnosis, China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai has also tweeted that a sound and stable relationship “is in the interests of both countries, and it is needed for achieving the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
However, in the aftermath of the Trump diagnosis, it is being conjectured that the already frosty relationship between Washington and Beijing is unlikely to thaw despite Beijing’s signals. Directly affected by what he called, “the “Wuhan virus,” and desperate for a win in an uncertain battle President Trump will up the ante against Beijing making this an anxiety-ridden end to the ‘golden week’ for President Xi Jinping.
Directly affected by what he called, “the “Wuhan virus,” and desperate for a win in an uncertain battle President Trump will up the ante against Beijing.