Outgoing China ambassador: Trump ‘believed the Chinese’ early in pandemic

21-Sep-2020 Intellasia | Politico | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Terry Branstad, the outgoing US ambassador to China, said in a new interview that President Donald Trump mistakenly “believed the Chinese” in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The remarks from the Trump appointee and former longtime Iowa governor represent an apparent break with the White House amid a heated general election campaign — which has seen Trump cast himself as tough on China’s ruling Communist Party while describing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as beholden to Beijing.

“I think President Trump believed the Chinese when they said what they said about the virus,” Branstad told CNN in an interview that aired Friday. “And then he and the rest of the world have found out that what they said was not true, and misinformation and cover-ups occurred.”

“It’s really, I think, the communist system of China and their unwillingness to admit wrongdoing that caused this whole thing to happen,” Branstad added. “And that’s the tragedy of it.”

China has emerged as a major flashpoint in the presidential race in recent months, with Trump taking an increasingly hard line against Beijing through a variety of punitive measures related to its handling of the pandemic, exertion of greater authority in Hong Kong and internment of ethnic minorities.

Trump also has repeatedly referred to Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in incendiary and racially insensitive terms such as the “China virus” and “kung flu.”

Trump’s reelection campaign has sought to brand his Democratic opponent as “Beijing Biden” — despite the former vice president saying in February that he “would not be taking China’s word” on the coronavirus and demanding that US health officials be allowed into the country.

Trump, however, offered consistent praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping and his government’s coronavirus response earlier this year, as the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, began to spread around the globe.

Trump tweeted on January 24 that China “has been working very hard to contain” the coronavirus. On February 7, Trump tweeted that China “will be successful” in halting the outbreak, and said of Xi’s management of the public health crisis: “I think he’s going to handle it. I think he’s handled it really well.”

“If you can count on the reports coming out of China, that spread has gone down quite a bit,” Trump said at a news briefing of the White House coronavirus task force on February 27. “The infection seems to have gone down over the last two days. As opposed to getting larger, it’s actually gotten smaller.”

The president’s complimentary tone toward his foreign counterpart continued at least through March 27, when Trump tweeted that he had a “very good conversation” with Xi, writing: “China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates weighed in on Branstad’s remarks in a statement, saying that while Trump was “undercutting” the federal pandemic response “by lying to the American people about the deadliness of the threat and echoing Chinese government propaganda to justify his inaction,” Biden was “sounding the alarm” about the outbreak and warning him not to trust Beijing.

But Trump campaign spokesman Matt Wolking noted in a statement that Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, also had commented on China’s transparency in January, and argued that “when Joe Biden attacks President Trump on this issue, he is actually attacking the president for listening to Dr Fauci.”

The president came under intense criticism last week for dire remarks he made about the coronavirus in 18 on-the-record interviews with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, conducted for the journalist’s latest book on the Trump White House.

Two tapes of Trump which have received particular scrutiny were recorded in February and March, as the White House remained publicly dismissive of the outbreak. In those conversations with Woodward, Trump called the coronavirus “deadly stuff” and acknowledged he was eager to “play … down” the disease.

Woodward also reported that Trump was warned as early as January 28 in an intelligence briefing with his national security aides that the coronavirus would “be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,” and that the outbreak in China would escalate to a global health emergency akin to the 1918 flu pandemic.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/18/china-ambassador-trump-coronavirus-pandemic-417648

 


Category: China

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