President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised this week that China will “pay a big price” for its role in the coronavirus pandemic, a vague but aggressive threat from a president who has frequently blamed China for spreading the disease after launching a trade war that has badly strained relations between the two countries.
In videos posted to Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday, Trump said China is responsible for the coronavirus pandemic, claiming the virus “was sent over by China” and promising the country will pay an unspecified price.
Trump made similar accusations in a Thursday morning interview on Fox Business, declaring “I’m sick of them” and predicting China will give Trump a favorable trade deal because they hope to keep him happy.
Vice President Mike Pence faulted China during Wednesday’s vice presidential debate for failing to communicate the virus’ true severity to the world, he touted Trump’s January decision to ban most travelers from China, and he promised to “hold China accountable.”
“We are making tremendous progress with this horrible disease that was sent over by China,” Trump said in a video Thursday, three days after he was discharged from the hospital with Covid-19. “China will pay a big price for what they did to the world and to us.”
Since announcing his 2016 run for president, Trump has often cast China as a source of America’s problems, accusing the country of taking advantage of the United States. He imposed sharp tariffs on Chinese goods in 2018, part of a trade war he claimed would shrink the U.S. trade deficit, though most economists have criticized this strategy. After Covid-19 first emerged, Trump quickly placed blame on China, expressing some support for an evidence-free conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was deliberately concocted in a lab in China. Most experts have dismissed this claim, though many have criticized Chinese officials for covering up Covid-19 outbreaks in the weeks after the virus first emerged.
73%. That’s the percentage of Americans whose view of China was unfavorable as of this summer, a 26-point increase since 2018, according to polling from Pew Research Center. Residents of most western countries have grown increasingly skeptical of China this year, driven by the country’s handling of Covid-19 and President Xi Jinping’s authoritarianism.
This is not the first time Trump has demanded compensation from foreign countries. One of Trump’s signature 2016 campaign promises was to compel Mexico to pay for the cost of constructing a border wall. He later backtracked on the promise, claiming the country could instead pay for the wall through a reduced trade deficit with the United States.