The coronavirus outbreak that originated in China and quickly turned into a global pandemic is seriously battering the U.S. economy. Despite that, the Trump administration wants to ease the "stay at home" measures and jump-start its economy. To this end, some pro-Trump groups are protesting in states governed by Democrats to loosen these measures.
Similar stunts are also underway in Brazil, at the behest of Jair Bolsonaro, who is known as "Tropical Trump." In reaction to the quarantine measures introduced by governors, Bolsonaro described the epidemic as nothing more than a “little flu” and sacked Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who disagreed with him. In Brazil, the pandemic quickly turned into a polarizing culture war.
Trump accuses the World Health Organization (WHO) of being “pro-Chinese.” WHO has also been subject to similar charges in the past. In December 2019, Trump called on the "World Bank", asking it to abstain from lending credit to China.
The pandemic has turned into yet another showdown in the global power competition between the U.S. and China. Trump voiced the same view with regards to other international organizations as he explained that the U.S. will end its financial contribution to the World Health Organization.
The provinces that have been hardest hit due to the fact that their industries and manufacturing jobs are shifting to China are Trump's main constituencies.
In the 2016 elections, Trump garnered large support from these regions where unemployment is rampant. Promising to bring back jobs to America, Trump established the White House National Trade Council after being elected President and put Professor Peter Navarro, known as one of the U.S.’s most anti-China economists, at its helm.
Navarro rose to fame with his books "Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action " and "Coming China Wars." Noting that he was very impressed with Navarro’s books, Trump said, "Navarro has documented the damage done by globalization to American workers very well and paved the way we will follow to strengthen our middle class." Navarro, who was Trump's Chief Advisor, played a prominent role in the trade wars with China.
Navarro butted heads with Gary Cohn, President of the National Economic Council, who Trump has nicknamed "Globalist Cohn."
Cohn, who could not see eye-to-eye with Trump, eventually resigned in March 2018.
Trump also signed the "Defense Production Act", which was introduced to produce the necessary medical supplies in the fight against Covid-19.
The U.S. declaring China as an equal global competitor is also in line with the expectations of the "American Military Industrial Complex". Therefore, the U.S. pursues a policy of cornering and blocking China on several fronts. It is through this policy that Trump wants China to be held responsible for the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Trump is not innocent, even though China has acted negligently and discreetly, causing the outbreak to spiral out of control. Trump disregarded outbreak warnings from federal agencies. Americans are now suffering the consequences of Trump's delayed action.
Trump's fanatic supporters, the "Christian Evangelicals," argue that China must foot the financial bill for the epidemic. In addition to Ralph Reed, leader of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the “Evangelicals for Trump” group took action to make Trump force China to pay for it. This view is of course shared by hawkish Republicans in Congress.
China holds about $1.2 trillion in U.S. government bonds. This debt is used as political leverage in China's relationship with the U.S.
Hawkish Republicans, however, want China to waive all or part of the debt by blaming Beijing for the epidemic. Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lindsey Graham advocate billing China for the outbreak.
As the president of the "Judicial Committee" and a member of the "Foreign Relations Committee,” Graham is one of the most influential figures in the Trump administration.
It is “politically” possible to talk about waiving debt owed to China or to punish Beijing financially for the epidemic, but it is far from being “legal.”