Trump, Biden Spar With Tough China Talk07/12 10:48
China has fast become a top election issue as President Donald Trump and
Democrat Joe Biden engage in a verbal brawl over who's better at playing the
tough guy against Beijing.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- China has fast become a top election issue as President
Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden engage in a verbal brawl over who's better
at playing the tough guy against Beijing.
The Trump campaign put out ads showing Biden toasting China's Xi Jinping,
even though Trump did just that with Xi in Asia and hosted the Chinese leader
at his Florida club. Spots from the Biden campaign feature Trump playing down
the coronavirus and praising Xi for being transparent about the pandemic, even
though it's clear China hid details of the outbreak from the world.
"I think it's going to be absolutely critical, but I don't know who is going
to have the advantage," said Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He has been
reviewing the ads and thinks China is one of the three leading issues along
with the economy and the handling of the coronavirus.
China is not just a foreign policy issue in the November election. It's an
issue that runs deeply through the troubles with the virus, which tanked the
U.S. economy. Voters also will be asking themselves whether Trump or Biden can
best defend the U.S. against China's unfair trade practices, theft of
intellectual property rights, rising aggression across the globe and human
"Which person looks more subservient to the Chinese leaders is the person
who's in more jeopardy," Luntz said.
As the coronavirus spread throughout the U.S., a Pew Research Center poll in
March found Americans with increasingly negative views of China, with 66%
saying they had an unfavorable opinion. That was the most negative rating since
the question was first asked in 2005. The same poll found 62% of Americans
calling China's power and influence a major threat to the U.S., compared with
48% two years ago.
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in late May and early June found
registered voters about evenly divided over which of the candidates would be
better at dealing with China, with 43% saying Trump compared with 40% for
Biden. In the poll, 5% viewed Trump and Biden equally, while 10% said neither
would be good.
Trump's advisers see China as an opportunity to portray Biden as deferential
to Beijing when he was President Barack Obama's vice president and point person
on Asia, according to three campaign officials and Republicans close to the
White House. The campaign made a push in May to link Biden with China, complete
with an advertising blitz, but the effort did little to raise Trump's poll
The Trump campaign credits the president with signing the first phase of a
trade deal with China in January, which boosted stock markets and seemingly
ended a bruising trade war. Republicans want to tether Biden to past
multinational agreements and trade deals blamed for an exodus of manufacturing
jobs across the Midwest. Trump campaign officials believe they missed that
opportunity in trying to wrest Midwest states from the Democrats in 2016.
The White House lists more than two dozen actions the administration has
taken since April to protect U.S. jobs, businesses and U.S. supply chains from
damage caused by the Chinese Communist Party's policies. That includes last
week's move to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for their roles in
repressing religious and ethnic minorities. More than a few administration
officials have recently delivered speeches calling out China's policies.
That message could strike a chord with the increasing number of Americans
who have an unfavorable view of the Asian power. There also is rising concern
about U.S. dependence on China for supplies --- something that drew attention
during the scramble for protective gear for U.S. health workers.
One more line of off-and-on attack by Trump, despite no proof of
impropriety, involves the business ties that Biden's son, Hunter, has had with
The Biden campaign is working to portray Trump as someone who talks tough
but has failed to hold China accountable for its response to the virus and has
signed only the first phase of a trade deal. The campaign says that while that
deal was being negotiated, Trump was saying that COVID-19 would "miraculously"
be gone in April and now it's July and cases are surging and the death toll
"Trump said he'd get tough on China," one of Biden campaign ads says. "He
didn't get tough. He got played."
The Biden camp highlights other Trump vulnerabilities on China that surfaced
in former national security adviser John Bolton 's new book, which claims Trump
urged Xi to increase Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat to help him Trump
farm states in November. Bolton also wrote that Trump told Xi that building
detention camps for hundreds of thousands of Muslim and other ethnic and
religious minorities in western China was "exactly the right thing to do."
Trump claims he's been tougher on China than any other president. The Biden
campaign says Trump has weakened relations with allies and pulled the U.S. out
of international organizations, giving China more room to exert its own
influence. Biden campaign officials say that if Biden is elected, he will
restore relationships with U.S. allies and rally the international community to
form a united front against China.
"What's striking to me is the extent to which the Trump campaign seems to
have thought that China would be a winning issue for them," said Jeff Prescott,
a foreign policy adviser for Biden.
"He was hiding from the warning signs coming in on the pandemic to get his
trade deal done with Xi Jinping and then spent all of January and February and
into March praising Xi --- praising China's handling of the coronavirus --- and
talking up his very flimsy phase one trade deal," Prescott said.
That first phase is smaller than the comprehensive deal Trump had hoped for
and leaves many of the thorniest issues between the two countries for future
talks. Few economists expect any resolution of the next phase before November.
Even Trump said this past week that it's not a top priority before then.
Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this