Trump’s intensifying criticism is a shift from his warmer approach following a late March phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which the two leaders pledged cooperation over the global outbreak. Trump tweeted at the time that he had a “very good conversation” with Xi and that the two countries are “working closely together. Much respect!”
But in recent days, Trump has revived his criticisms of the Chinese government and global health leaders over the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting he would withhold U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, which he said was “very, very China-centric,” and re-upping the term “Wuhan virus.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and civil rights organizations have discouraged the use of terms tying the novel coronavirus with a geographic location or ethnic group, saying the rhetoric could contribute to the rise in discrimination and violence against Asian Americans.
In a fundraising email Tuesday, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee echoed the president’s heightened rhetoric against the Chinese government.
“China has been lying and doing everything they can to cover up the spread of COVID-19 in their country. It’s absolutely disgraceful and we can’t stand by and do nothing,” read the appeal.
“President Trump has always been tough on China, but he can’t hold them accountable on his own,” it read. “That’s why he is calling on YOU to stand with him and hold China accountable for their lies and deceptions during the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Tuesday’s email appeared to be the first instance of his campaign using an anti-China message to raise money.
Campaign officials said they are drawing attention to U.S.-China trade relations as an important issue in the general election, and intend to focus their attacks on Biden’s response to China over the coronavirus outbreak.
“Joe Biden’s coziness with China will be an issue in the campaign,” said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the Trump campaign. “He has refused to call China an economic threat and said that President Trump’s move to restrict travel from China over the coronavirus was xenophobic and reactionary. He also has refused to explain why his son Hunter got an enormous business deal from a Chinese state-owned bank while Biden was vice president. These will all be issues.”
Hunter Biden’s lawyer has disputed the assertion that the former vice president’s son financially benefited from the investment.
The Trump Make America Great Again Committee raises money for the Republican National Committee and the president’s reelection campaign, and primarily focuses on raising online low-dollar donations.
RNC spokeswoman Mandi Merritt said Tuesday that the president’s record of action on China poses a clear contrast between Trump and Biden to general election voters.
“President Trump has spent three years standing up to China in ways previous administrations never did, and that includes when Joe Biden was vice president,” Merritt said. “From enacting travel restrictions to highlighting the Chinese government’s dishonesty on the origins of coronavirus, voters see President Trump is holding China accountable, and they are responding with their resources and support.”
Previously, a Trump campaign email in mid-March criticized Beijing for “pushing online conspiracy theories specifically intended to undermine the fact that the Wuhan coronavirus originated in China,” such as alleging that the virus was genetically engineered by U.S. military personnel.
In that March email, which did not ask for donations, the Trump campaign defended the president’s use of rhetoric linking the virus to the Chinese government and also attacked Biden for not criticizing China enough.
Trump has raised more money for his reelection than any of his predecessors had at this point in their campaigns.
Trump’s campaign, the RNC and their joint fundraising committees have so far raised more than $1 billion, and entered April with more than $240 million in their accounts, officials said.
Trump’s fundraising success has benefited from his avid base of online donors, who have consistently driven large sums to his reelection committees in response to email, text and other online appeals.
Trump’s reelection committees said they have raised more than $212 million in the first three months of the year, a massive sum that boosts the president’s cash lead as Biden begins shifting his focus to the general election. Biden has raised at least $121 million so far.