China Doesn't Believe Trump's Threat to Cut Off Relationship, State Media Says

Chinese state media has rejected President Donald Trump's threat to "cut off" relations with China, as the coronavirus war of words between Washington and Beijing continues.

The president said Thursday that he was considering a range of responses to China, on which country he places blame for the pandemic. The novel coronavirus originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan before spreading worldwide, and to date has infected more than 4.4 million people and killed 302,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Trump told Fox Business news that the "plague" from China may torpedo the long-awaited trade deal with Beijing. The president initially praised Chinese President Xi Jinping's response to the coronavirus outbreak but said Thursday, "I don't want to speak to him."

"There are many things we could do," Trump said, when asked how he might respond to the pandemic. "We could cut off the whole relationship."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was measured in his response during a daily briefing on Friday, urging continued cooperation between the two nations.

But Chinese state media, often used to publish more belligerent sentiments without the risk of diplomatic escalation, was more dismissive of Trump. Global Times, owned by the People's Daily newspaper which is the official publication of the Chinese Communist Party, was especially scathing, branding Trump's threat "lunacy."

In an op-ed published Friday, the hawkish Global Times said Trump's comments "should not come as a surprise for those who remember when Trump speculated if disinfectants could be used on humans 'by injection' to wipe out the novel coronavirus."

The op-ed suggested that Republicans and Democrats are now competing to be more China-skeptic ahead of November's presidential election. Democratic presumptive nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden has been trying to bolster his anti-China credentials since the pandemic broke out, hoping to deflect attacks from the Trump campaign which paint him as soft on Beijing.

Global Times said the development as "lunacy" and a result of "anxiety" and "envy" around China's economic and political rise. "China doesn't believe that Washington will 'cut off the whole relationship' with them as that would violate the basic principles of 21st-century logic," the article said.

"Furthermore, Trump couldn't make it happen. The White House administration often overestimates their capabilities to drive historical reversals. Rest assured, time will teach them a lesson."

Multiple nations have raised concerns about China's apparent attempt to cover up the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, plus its alleged lack of transparency in warning the World Health Organization (WHO) and announcing its actual number of infections and deaths.

President Xi Jinping and his regime have been accused of purposefully concealing warnings that the outbreak was to become a pandemic, to ensure that China had enough time to secure the medical supplies needed to respond. Beijing also reportedly threatened the WHO to stop the body sounding the alarm.

Foreign leaders and the WHO have called for an international investigation into the origins and course of the outbreak, but Beijing has so far rejected the proposal.

Trump and his allies have been the most vociferous critics of China during the pandemic. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have blamed China for the worldwide spread of the virus and hinted at repercussions. The U.S. has become the epicenter of the pandemic with more than 1.4 million confirmed infections and almost 86,000 deaths.

Both have also expressed confidence that the virus escaped from a research lab in Wuhan, rather than originating at a wildlife market in the city. Neither has presented evidence to support the assertion.

China has framed international criticism as racist politicking intended to divert attention from the failings of national governments. Beijing has been particularly critical of the U.S., both in official statements and through state media.

Government-backed newspapers have been an important element of Beijing's coronavirus disinformation campaign, spreading propaganda and conspiracy theories maligning the foreign response to the pandemic and seeking to absolve Beijing of blame.

Chinese state media has accused Trump of trying to turn the coronavirus crisis into part of his re-election campaign, using it to justify the tough stance on Beijing he has taken during his presidency to date.

"The Trump administration is trying to convince American voters of the importance of fighting with China to win in November," Global Times claimed. "China will not be distracted by their political shenanigans and will maintain its strategic focus."

Donald Trump, China, coronavirus, threat, state media
President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland on May 14, 2020. CARLOS BARRIA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty