In a controversial video registered during a diplomatic trip
in the Middle East and North Africa, Pompeo said Trump had “pulled the curtain down on the predatory Chinese Communist Party aggression” and “held China responsible” for covering up the “Chinese virus” – a reference repeated accusations from Trump that Beijing is ultimately responsible for the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the United States, killing nearly 180,000 Americans
and cause widespread economic misery that could reduce Trump’s chances of re-election.
“China will own the United States if this election is lost by Donald Trump”, Trump, referring to himself in the third person, said earlier this month
. “If I don’t win the election, China will own the United States. You’re going to have to learn to speak Chinese.”
While opinion in China is divided
on if Biden – who could take one more measured approach
, if not really a sympathetic Beijing – is preferable to a second term for Trump, the very idea that it could be an electoral problem is deeply undesirable to the country’s leadership.
“Some US politicians are working to suppress China because they fear China’s growth,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said said this week
, adding that “the harder they hit, the more it shows how much China is on the right track.”
Speaking in Italy on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said
any move towards “a new cold war” would turn the tide of history and “kidnap the whole world”. Wang is touring Europe to strengthen relations on the continent, following a recent trip by Pompeo intended to build an anti-China alliance
Pompeo has long been a disgust figure
in Chinese state media, but there is no guarantee that his removal from his post would necessarily improve things for Beijing.
According to the Pew Research Center
Americans on both sides “now see China much more negatively than in the recent past,” 83% of Republicans polled said they viewed the country unfavorably. According to Pew, while Republicans have long been suspicious of Beijing, Democrats have also become more suspicious in recent years – 68% of supporters surveyed said they viewed China unfavorably – so there is a growing consensus on the issue. .
This is largely reflected by both candidates, even though Trump is considerably stronger in his convictions. Although Biden only mentioned China once in his acceptance speech
at the Democratic National Convention last week, he repeatedly denounced Trump for his weakness towards China. He called Xi a “thug,” and his campaign announcements claimed Trump had not held China responsible for the spread of the pandemic, amid suggestions that Chinese officials covered up the initial outbreak.
Yet elections are usually not won on issues on which both sides largely agree, and such general antipathy could actually benefit China if it makes the country a boring topic of debate. In an article published in the Global Times, run by the Chinese state this week
, the tabloid claimed that “hyper sinophobia is becoming less and less effective in attracting support from Donald Trump, and Republicans have failed to attract more swing voters.”
Poll shows coronavirus is the first issue of the American elections
, replacing everything else – and some in Beijing may hope that this stifles Pompeo and Trump’s attempts to make China a major subject.
At the same time, focusing on the coronavirus could also give the president a lot of ammunition to go after China, especially as Pew found
that 78% of Americans “attribute much or much of the responsibility for the global spread of the coronavirus to the Chinese government’s initial handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.”
Beijing would prefer not to be a topic of this conversation at all, but Pompeo’s speech shows he and other Republicans are keen to make it a major election issue. Chinese leaders will be following Trump’s speech at the convention closely later this week.
CNN’s Selina Wang contributed reporting.