Trump risks blowback from war of words with China over coronavirus
WASHINGTON, Mar 26: US President Donald Trump and some top aides have repeatedly excoriated China over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a stance that even some in his administration worry could bring a dangerous backlash from Beijing.
While Trump himself softened his tone after a week of blaming what he called the "Chinese virus" for the human and economic toll of the disease, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday had harsh words for the Chinese, accusing them of an "intentional disinformation campaign."
Increasing strains in U.S.-China relations have raised concerns at a time when experts say an unprecedented level of cooperation is needed to face the crisis and deal with its fallout. "The U.S. and China are engaged now in a demonization contest," said Daniel Russel, who served as the State Department's top Asia adviser until early in Trump's term.
"That inevitably hinders badly needed cooperation."
At risk also is Trump's hard-won trade deal between the world's two biggest economies, a key plank of his 2020 re-election campaign.
While Washington and Beijing have so far mostly been waging an escalating war of words, the Trump administration has raised the prospect of turning rhetoric into action, which could further ratchet up tensions.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, a leading China hawk, is crafting a new "Buy America" executive order aimed at reducing U.S. reliance on Chinese-made pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies.
China, which has matched U.S. recriminations over the virus, has warned that such a move would be unwise and unrealistic.
An article carried by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said the world should thank China, rather than blame it, and warned if Beijing were to ban the export of drugs, "the United States would sink into the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic." -REUTERS