President Donald Trump suggested on Thursday that the U.S. could “cut off the whole relationship” with China, claiming that doing so would save the country $500 billion.
“There are many things we could do,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday morning. “We could cut off the whole relationship.”
The U.S. and many other nations have become increasingly critical of China amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, which first arose in the Chinese city of Wuhan. China has been accused of covering up the extent of the outbreak and failing to be transparent about the seriousness of the virus. China has attempted to dismiss these criticisms and claimed that the Trump administration is trying to deflect criticism of its own response to the crisis.
The president suggested on Thursday that cutting ties with China would save the U.S. money.
“Now, if you did, what would happen?” he asked. “You’d save $500 billion if you cut off the whole relationship.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House as well as the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. for further comment.
Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Trump had long been critical of China, even before entering the White House. The president has repeatedly raised concerns about the trade deficit between the two nations, as the U.S. historically has imported significantly more from the Asian nation than it has exported to the country.
This spurred Trump to add tariffs to hundreds of billions of Chinese goods starting in mid-2018, which led China to respond in kind. The situation escalated into a trade war that analysts have estimated cost the U.S. hundreds of thousands of jobs and forced American importers to shell out billions more than they would have to pay tariffs. But that situation appeared to be resolving in mid-January, with the signing of a new phase one trade agreement.
Now as the U.S. has become the nation in the world with the highest number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, as well the highest number of deaths, the Trump administration has faced criticism at home for its handling of the crisis. The president largely dismissed the seriousness of the virus through February, even suggesting that it would simply “disappear.” Supporters of the president argue that he acted quickly by implementing travel restrictions on foreigners who had visited China.
China has faced significant international criticism of its handling of the virus, particularly due to the fact that Chinese officials initially covered up the outbreak, even detaining doctors who raised alarms about the growing outbreak in Wuhan. Newsweek also reported on Tuesday that a CIA report has assessed that China threatened the World Health Organization (WHO) in January, urging it not to declare a global health emergency.
“Some people in the US failed to fight the epidemic themselves and failed the trust of the American people. But they have not made reflections of how to improve their work,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijia said on Thursday, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
“We urge the US to stop slandering and discrediting China, stop promoting relevant bills, and playing this nonsense blame game. On whether China has any disciplinary measures, I have no further comments,” Zhao added.