Business Insider Edition

Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis will bolster China's global standing, says Atlantic Council CEO

Saloni Sardana , Business Insider US
 Oct 05, 2020, 05:02 PM
Graffiti of President Donald Trump and President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping wearing face masks at Mauer Park in Berlin, Germany, on April 27, 2020.
Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • US president Donald Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis will boost China's international reputation, the CEO of think-tank Atlantic Council Fred Kempe said in a CNBC opinion piece over the weekend. 
  • Trump and first Lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. 
  • Kempe said: "Chinese officials will embrace this period as additional, welcome 'breathing space' to escalate their ongoing efforts across a range of fronts."
  • He said China perceives Trump's diagnosis as a "self-inflicted wound".
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.


US president Donald Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis came at a delicate time for the US and is likely to improve China's economic standing, Atlantic Council CEO Frederick Kempe said in a weekend opinion piece with CNBC. 

President Donald Trump said on Friday that he had tested positive for Covid-19 along with First Lady Melania Trump. 

Market watchers said the timing couldn't be worse for Trump, with a presidential election fewer than 30 days away, but Kempe said China will use the situation to bolster its global reputation. 

Kempe said he thinks China is unlikely to engage in some dramatic move that "might provoke Washington" such as a military move on Taiwan's independence, but that Chinese officials will still "embrace this period."  

"Chinese officials will embrace this period as additional, welcome "breathing space" to escalate their ongoing efforts across a range of fronts to build upon their momentum – from tightening party control on the Chinese private sector, to the accelerated development of a digital currency, to closing remaining technology gaps with the United States," he said.

Kempe referred to comments made by Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of China's Global Times, an English-language newspaper linked to the ruling Communist party, in the last week. 

"Such a chaos at the top of US politics reflects division, anxiety of US society and the accelerating loss of advantages of the US political system," Xijin said. 

Xijin reinforces the view China has handled the Covid-19 crisis far better than the Western world, particularly compared to the United States, where the virus has killed more than 200,000 people and infected almost 7.5 million according to the latest figures from John Hopkins University. 

The world's second largest economy has been ahead of the game in containing the virus and bouncing back. China was the first country to be hit by an outbreak that started in its Wuhan province. China's economy expanded by 3.2% year-on-year in the second quarter of the year and by 11% compared to Q1, beating predictions in a survey of Reuters economists.

Kempe said Chinese leaders, under President Xi Jinping, began questioning the "durability of the American model" and their dependence on it in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. 

"Chinese leaders now see 2020, burnished by their role as the first major economy to return to growth after Covid-19,  as a chance to accelerate the global shift of power and influence in their direction," Kempe said. 

"Chinese officials see President Trump's Covid contraction as a self-inflicted wound, given President Xi's elaborate and painstaking efforts to avoid infection and wean his country from Covid," he added. 

Trump has come under fire for repeatedly endorsing lack of use of masks, and questioning the severity of the pandemic, even as it has killed over 1 million people globally. 

US and China relations have worsened over the course of the last year, having deteriorated since Trump began a trade war in 2018.

Some of the issues include the banning of several Chinese tech firms from US exchanges, and a draconian Chinese law on Hong Kong's autonomy.

"Irrespective of how and when President Trump recovers and who wins November's US elections, President Xi is focused on how this period can serve China's long game and his historic legacy," Kempe said. 

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