Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Chinese State Media on Coronavirus and President Trump
Chinese State Media on Coronavirus and President Trump

Chinese State Media on Coronavirus and President Trump

Post by Joshita Varshney

March 13, 2020

What began as primarily a threat to mainland China has now spread to all corners of the globe, leaving governments and health-care systems scrambling to protect their citizens. As society continues to be upended, it is interesting to observe how the Global Times, China’s state-sponsored news outlet, has extensively documented the development of the outbreak, specifically in the context of its view of President Trump.  

Since the beginning of the outbreak, The Global Times has published many news articles that discuss the Trump administration in conjunction with the coronavirus. Overall, the platform has sharply criticized the Trump administration for allegedly immorally “politicizing public health emergencies” and blamed the administration for taking advantage of China’s weakened position in trade and global affairs. Articles call for the “Trump administration [to] act more proactively to help maintain the stability of the Chinese economy,” which is probably more “conducive to carrying out the phase one deal and paving the way for phase two talks, which US officials so crave.” Chinese state media has constantly accused the American government for acting immorally in a time where international cooperation is of utmost importance. 

The Global Times has also questioned Trump’s ability to handle the crisis in contrast to China’s, claiming that the U.S. couldn’t “swiftly get the flow of 100 million citizens under control, lock down the epidemic area and build new hospitals in 10 days like China did.” Articles blatantly accuse the U.S. of inefficiency—their “method of resolving problems is to procrastinate” and attacks the administration for stinginess when responding to public health emergencies, as in the case of the 2018 California wildfires. Naturally, the Global Times is meant to stir Chinese nationalist pride, such as frequent mentions lauding China for handling the virus, but this has been done so at the expense of the Trump administration.

It is clear that within the context of the coronavirus, the Global Times (and therefore the Chinese government) does not look favorably upon Trump and his “America First” ideology. The outlet even contrasts Trump to leaders of other countries and former U.S. Presidents: It praises Canada for providing healthcare equipment and medical experts to help address the novel coronavirus and accuses America of wrongly spreading its ideals to Australia. China’s state-sponsored media charges Trump for not acting as a “responsible great power” as it had under Barack Obama or even George W. Bush. 

 Now that the U.S. is also battling the coronavirus domestically, the Global Times has stepped up its harsh attack on the administration. According to the outlet, the American COVID-19 statistics are inaccurate – the “‘retarded response and incompetence’ of the Trump administration” will exacerbate the situation in America in the coming weeks; it highlights a tweet that ominously anticipates “Trump will be responsible for thousands of deaths in the US very soon.” 

Criticizing Trump’s promise to revitalize the American manufacturing sector, the outlet writes of a U.S. mask shortage that “those promises and predictions have not materialized.” The outlet also criticizes the American healthcare infrastructure—the administration is “using a national disaster program to pay for treatment of uninsured patients infected with the coronavirus.” 

 As both the coronavirus and the 2020 election have taken over U.S. politics, the Global Times has not missed an opportunity to weave the election into its criticism of Trump, this time simultaneously attacking the Democratic party. While it is “too early to tell which Democrat will emerge from the messy Democratic presidential nomination contest and compete with Trump,” one article claims, “the Trump administration’s coronavirus handling issue is becoming a political weapon used by the Democrats.” A similar story accuses Washington politicians of “playing political games instead of mobilizing national resources to combat the vicious disease.” 

Despite the coronavirus’s intensity, China’s spirit has not abated. The Global Times has confidently said that the “virus can’t stop China’s march forward,” emphasizing the government’s desire to reassure citizens that China will still emerge powerful. Such positive language is only reserved for China. When it comes to Trump, his administration, and even other Democratic presidential candidates, the Global Times makes every effort to paint all three groups in a negative light. A recent article in the Global Times “calls to reject prejudice, maintain solidarity with China,” accusing Western media of publishing stories that appeal to their audience rather than conducting comprehensive research on the subject. Ironically, China’s state-sponsored media might be guilty of that exact criticism.