Trump targets China and WHO

Foreign Affairs

U.S. President Donald Trump took aim again at China and the World Health Organization over their handling of the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic.

SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

Last week Thursday May 28, China’s National People’s Congress approved the national security law that will essentially end the notion of “One Country, Two Systems.” The law was first mentioned on May 21 at the opening of the annual Two Sessions series of political meetings.

On Friday, May 29, U.S. President Donald Trump began his morning with a simple tweet: “CHINA!” This afternoon, he gave a 10-minute briefing at the White House “to talk about our relationship with China and several new measures to protect American security and prosperity” (on YouTube, transcript).

Trump blamed China for a “pattern of misconduct” mostly in trade, and IPR theft. But he also mentioned Beijing “unlawfully claim[ing] territory in the Pacific Ocean” and breaking “their word to the world on ensuring the autonomy of Hong Kong.” But he reserved most of the time to blast Beijing for the COVID-19 pandemic — Trump adopted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s preferred language about a “cover-up of the Wuhan virus.”

Trump said the U.S. would:

  • Leave the World Health Organization.
  • Eliminate “policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment,” including on trade and immigration, though no details were given on what the new visa regulations might be.
  • “Sanction PRC and Hong Kong officials directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
  • Study “the differing practices of Chinese companies listed on the U.S. financial markets, with the goal of protecting American investors.”
  • “Better secure…vital university research and…suspend the entry of certain foreign nationals from China who we have identified as potential security risks.” Within hours, the White House released a Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China.
  • This new policy, first reported earlier last week, will make graduate study in the U.S. impossible for any Chinese national with even a vague connection to “military-civil fusion” in China.

Trump did not:

  • Announce an end of the Phase One Trade Deal, but there is clearly no hope for a Phase Two.
  • Mention the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act that the U.S. House passed in December 2019 and has now been approved by the Senate. Word is, Trump will discuss it this week. The South China Morning Post says that the “decision now falls on Trump to either enact or reject it, though a veto would be met with resistance from a united Congress.”

Beijing’s response: On June 1 at the daily Foreign Ministry briefing in Beijing, spokesperson Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 announced China’s first opposition and promised that “Any words or actions by the U.S. that harm China’s interests will meet with China’s firm counterattack.”

Beijing is also pointing to the widespread protests in the U.S. as showing up the hypocrisy of Trump and other U.S. politicians’ support for protests in Hong Kong.