As President, Donald Trump has cast China as a global villain: a malevolent actor that all but launched a worldwide pandemic on an unsuspecting world, robbed Americans of their jobs and stole U.S. business secrets. He has made the Chinese Communist Party a catch-all enemy that pulls puppet-like strings to make international organizations like the World Health Organization work at cross-purposes with Washington, all charges Beijing vigorously denies.
At the same time, Trump has presented himself to the world—and to U.S. voters—as the only person capable of pummeling Beijing into submission, chiefly through a landmark trade deal. Democrats, the President and his allies say, are the willing patsies who bow to Beijing, as when former Vice President-turned-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sought closer ties to the growing superpower in his multiple visits there. “A rising China is a positive, positive development, not only for China but for America and the world writ large,” Biden said in 2011 after returning to the U.S. from one such trip.
China got only a glancing mention in Tuesday night’s first Presidential debate, with Trump saying the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans “is China’s fault.” Biden has been buoyed by an August Fox News poll that shows more Americans trust him over Trump to handle China, perhaps in reaction to Trump’s swings between painting China as an existential threat to the U.S. and effusive praise toward Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
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