US Politics: Trump says China will 'do anything' to prevent his re-election

Trump claims China does not want to see him re-elected
Trump has criticised China for its coronavirus response

Donald Trump has stepped up his war of words with China, saying the country will "do anything" to stop him being re-elected. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...

China will do anything they can to have me lose this race."

- Donald Trump

Donald Trump has added further friction to the already tense relationship between Washington and Beijing, claiming China wants him to lose the election in November 2020 and will "do anything" to help that happen.

In an interview with Reuters, the president said the Asian country's handling of the coronavirus outbreak shows the lengths it will go to in its efforts to damage his re-election chances. The Chinese government has refuted the accusations.

Trump has increasingly pointed the finger of blame at China for the current global health crisis, this week saying Beijing should have been quicker to let the rest of the world know about Covid-19, which originated in the city of Wuhan.

The US leader said there were various consequences he could impose on China in response to the pandemic.

'Anything they can'

Trump claimed the Chinese government is working to scupper his re-election chances because it wants to see Joe Biden - the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee - in the White House, in the belief Biden would take a softer approach on issues like trade.

"China will do anything they can to have me lose this race," the Republican leader said.

Offering his views on the conduct of Chinese officials, he added: "They're constantly using public relations to try to make it like they're innocent parties."

When Trump was asked if his dissatisfaction with China's handling of the virus could result in financial consequences like tariffs or debt write-offs, he responded: "There are many things I can do. We're looking for what happened."

Beijing insisted it had no interest in interfering in the US presidential election, which is due to take place on November 3. During a daily briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters the election was an internal matter for the US and China didn't want to be dragged into it.

Trump himself has faced criticism for not acting swiftly enough to prepare his country for the arrival and spread of coronavirus. A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week showed that 43% of Americans approved of the president's handling of the pandemic.

'Not happy'

Tension with China has been a defining theme of the Trump presidency, with a long-running trade war between the countries resulting in tit-for-tat tariffs and wider implications for global economic growth.

At the start of this year, there was a thawing in relations as the two sides agreed on a phase one trade deal, but the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have reversed the recent progress, with Washington and Beijing trading accusations over the origin and management of the virus.

Speaking to the press this week, Trump said there are a "lot of ways you can hold [China] accountable" for the severity of the crisis.

"We are not happy with China. We are not happy with that whole situation," he continued. "Because we believe [the virus] could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly and it wouldn't have spread all over the world."

Beijing has strongly rejected these criticisms, with an editorial piece in China's state-backed Global Times newspaper this week arguing that the country's achievement in its fight against coronavirus is "way better than that of the US".

"It is the urgent political need of the Republican-led government to pass the buck to China for its own failure to contain the outbreak, so as to win the upcoming election," the article claimed.

Economy 'flattened'

Before the current health crisis, Trump frequently touted the strength of the US economy as evidence of his administration's success. As he plots his path to re-election in November, the president will be hoping the economy can make a quick recovery from the effects of coronavirus, but the signs at the moment are fairly bleak.

Official data this week showed the American economy - the biggest in the world - shrank at an annual rate of 4.8% in the first quarter. This was the country's first contraction since 2014 and the biggest decline in more than a decade.

Forecasters have warned things will get worse before they get better, with some analysts projecting a 30% drop in GDP for Q2.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said: "This is off the rails, unprecedented. The economy has just been flattened."

Despite this grim picture, US stock markets have been steadily regaining lost ground in recent weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which tumbled by more than 36% between mid-February and mid-March, has risen by nearly 18% during April.

The S&P 500 is up by almost 14% so far this month and is on course for its best showing since 1974.

However, Bianco Research president James Bianco told CNBC the market is "a little ahead of itself right now" and warned the current rally could collapse in the coming months.

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