- Trump is heaping praise on the Chinese president Xi Jinping for his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
- But many believe Chinese authorities are downplaying the severity of the situation.
- Trump’s tweets come at an interesting time for U.S/China relations. The trade deal is entering effect. And an election is just around the corner.
Amid a firestorm of criticism directed at the Chinese government over its handling of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, President Xi Jinping has an unlikely supporter – Donald Trump. Is the U.S. president is helping the Chinese Communist Party downplay the crisis?
The United States needs China to remain on good terms for the trade deal to work. And with an election around the corner, that might be enough to convince Trump to go along with the Chinese government’s version of events.
A Late-Night Conversation
On Friday, Trump revealed that he spoke with Xi Jinping by phone. He praised the Chinese leader with a gushing tweet.
Trump followed up with even more praise for Chinese authorities.
In reality, the Chinese authorities have refused U.S. offers to send help – in the form of infectious disease specialists to assist with the coronavirus crisis. They are also trying to suppress freedom of speech and negative news about the situation.
China is Probably Downplaying the Coronavirus
While the Chinese Communist Party is using the sort of “strong” authoritarian tactics Donald Trump likes – you know, mass roundups and travel restrictions – it’s unclear if they are being completely honest about the extent of the crisis.
While the Chinese government’s official figures claim that around 31,000 people are infected with the coronavirus, research from the Lancet and other medical experts put the figure as high as 75,000 in Wuhan alone. On top of this, Chinese authorities have hidden the extent of the outbreak since the very beginning – famously silencing Dr. Wenliang who was one of the first to spread awareness about the coronavirus.
Chinese officials even went as far as to try and silence Dr. Wenliang’s death when he succumbed to the illness.
What Did Trump and Xi Talk About During their Phone Call?
We can only speculate about what Trump discussed with the Chinese president last night. But it looks like Xi may have convinced Trump to downplay the epidemic. With 72 million followers on Twitter, Trump is a one-man PR campaign.
When he speaks, people listen – whether they agree with him or not.
In a sense, Trump can do what the Chinese Communist Party wants more than anything: convince everyone that the situation is under control when it obviously isn’t.
Trump has chosen to praise China at an interesting time. The Asian nation recently announced plans to cut tariffs on over $75 billion of U.S. goods in a move that is set to go into effect on Feb. 14. The U.S will also slash tariffs on Chinese goods as part of the phase one trade deal signed in January.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.
This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.