President Trump has continued to praise Chinese President Xi Jinping for his handling of the growing coronavirus outbreak, but some in his administration are becoming increasingly uncomfortable about China’s lack of transparency, The Washington Post reported.
Several senior White House and administration officials worry that rattled financial markets and their effect on the economy as well as negotiations with China over a trade deal, keys to Trump’s re-election, have played a large role in the president’s friendly posture towards China.
“I had a long talk with President Xi -- for the people in this room -- two nights ago, and he feels very confident. He feels very confident. And he feels that, again, as I mentioned, by April or during the month of April, the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus,” Trump said last week.
U.S. and international health experts have expressed concerns that China has not been fully transparent about the outbreak, especially how it cracked down on doctors who tried to sound the alarm in December. U.S. officials do not have the information they have repeatedly asked for from China, which some argue warrants a tougher line from the United States.
Trump’s continued, and unwarranted, praise toward Xi has frustrated some advisers, as experts require access to data to study the virus.
The markets fell as the outbreak grew, and on the same day several airlines suspended flights and the U.S. announced its escalated response on Jan. 31, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 600 points. Trump believed any further action by his administration would hurt the economy, and therefore, his re-election bid.
The coronavirus has spread through China and in about two dozen other countries, and little is known about how it behaves or whether it will mutate. According to one senior White House official, the idea that it will taper off in the spring is “mainly an educated guess.”
“In fairness to the president, someone told him something that has a basis in reality...There is some validity in saying respiratory viruses like flu and coronavirus are seasonal,” Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. “The only thing is, when you’re dealing with a pandemic-type virus that is brand new, there’s no way of knowing what’s going to happen when the weather gets warm.”