Donald Trump continued his xenophobic warnings about China on Tuesday, claiming that if he loses the election, everyone in the US will have to learn to speak Chinese.
“Look, China will own the United States if this election is lost by Donald Trump,” he said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “If I don’t win the election, China will own the United States. You’re going to have to learn to speak Chinese, you want to know the truth.”
Demonising China has been central to Trump’s reelection campaign ever since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The president and his allies have attempted to shift attention away from the White House’s actions by blaming China for the global pandemic.
In late January, Trump put restrictions on travellers from China. And he has repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus” and “kung flu.” Yet for weeks, beginning in late January, Trump still praised Chinese officials for their response to the virus.
“China is working very hard,” he said on February 7. “They’re working really hard, and I think they are doing a very professional job.”
“President Xi loves the people of China, he loves his country, and he’s doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation,” Trump added on February 18.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien recently claimed that China is trying to hack into US election infrastructure in an effort to help Joe Biden win the presidency. The claim conveniently fits into another narrative that Trump has been pushing, which is that Biden is catering to Chinese interests.
One ad from the Trump campaign, for example, alleges: “The coronavirus infected millions. Crushed the world economy. One nation deserves the blame: China. They lied about it. Covered it up. Joe Biden coddles China.”
But according to The Wall Street Journal, officials familiar with the matter say that the “US doesn’t currently have intelligence showing that Beijing is directly trying to hack election-related systems.”
“Donald Trump has been the weakest president in American history with respect to China,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said on Tuesday. “As the most devastating public health crisis in 100 years rapidly spread, he echoed Chinese Communist Party propaganda to downplay the threat and justify inaction ― disregarding warnings from the intelligence community and Joe Biden not to take their word. As a consequence of Donald Trump’s failures, by every metric, China’s position is stronger and ours is diminished.”
The group Stop AAPI Hate has been tracking the harm caused by demonising China and comments like “kung flu.” According to a July 1 press release from the group, Asian Americans in California reported 832 incidents of discrimination and harassment over the previous three months.
“A man kicked my dog and told me to shut my dog up and then spat at me,” one person reported, “saying ‘Take your disease that’s ruining our country and go home.’”
This piece has been updated with comment from the Biden campaign.