Pro-Trump Group Tries to Portray Biden as Soft on China

Pro-Trump Group Tries to Portray Biden as Soft on China

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump campaign and its allies are trying to persuade voters in crucial swing states that they should turn their anger about China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic toward Joe Biden instead of the president.

The new messaging campaign comes as President Donald Trump has taken criticism for not preparing the U.S. for the pandemic after it broke out in China. The Trump campaign and its allies are trying to flip that narrative by portraying the presumptive Democratic nominee as soft on China, hoping to redirect voters’ outrage toward China for its mishandling of the virus.

A new $10 million campaign, funded by America First Action, a pro-Trump super-PAC, will appear in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- states crucial to either Biden’s or Trump’s victory. Michigan ranks high in the number of coronavirus deaths, and Pennsylvania had the highest number of new unemployment claims in the last two weeks of March.

The campaign includes three different ads, each using comments Biden made as vice president in 2011 at Sichuan University in China: “I believed in 1979 and I believe now that a rising China is a positive development.” The ads attack Biden for being too lenient with China and blame him for China “killing our jobs.”

“At a critical time when China has infected the world, it’s important Americans understand that Joe Biden has spent over 40 years catering to China’s wishes,” Brian O. Walsh, president of America First Action PAC said in a statement. “He’s a pro-China globalist running for president promising to fix the problems he helped create.”

In response, the Biden campaign highlighted recent statements from the former vice president in which he raised concerns about China’s handling of the virus and Trump’s comments praising China’s leadership.

“Despite repeated warnings from our intelligence agencies and medical experts, Trump spent vital weeks praising China’s response as successful and transparent while deceiving the American people about the extreme threat we faced and failing to prepare our country,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. “China played Donald Trump for a sucker, and now all of us are paying an atrocious price for his malpractice.”

In January and early February, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for “working very had to contain the coronavirus” and for his “transparency.” At the same time, Biden was calling for American scientists to travel to China to study the outbreak and was pushing for more transparency from the country’s leadership.

As the virus hit the United States and Trump came under scrutiny for his response and messaging, he took to calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” in reaction, he said, for a Chinese rumor that the U.S. military caused the outbreak that began in the country’s Hubei province.

Trump Defends Calling Outbreak ‘Chinese Virus’ in Tweets

This week, Trump said that he would instruct his administration to temporarily halt funding to the World Health Organization for taking China’s claims about the coronavirus “at face value” and failing to share information about the pandemic as it spread.

The Trump campaign has gone even further, on Tuesday sending out a fundraising email that accused China of “lying” about the outbreak and saying the country must be held accountable, language that is harsher than the president has used himself.

Now the pro-Trump super-PAC is hoping voters will forget Trump’s initial praise for China and turn their ire to Biden.

America First plans to launch a website called Beijing Biden, which will feature articles about how it views Biden’s connections to China and the country’s missteps in handling the coronavirus pandemic.

“You’re never going to lose votes by taking a hard line on China so I think it’s a savvy move to leverage those comments,” Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist, said. “No matter what party, what issue, going on the offensive and defining your opponent always works.”

Gorman said voters in the Midwest swing states are particularly attuned to China because of the sustained loss of manufacturing jobs in the region over the last several decades.

The Trump campaign is continuing to focus on Hunter Biden, the Democratic candidate’s son, who once served on the board of a Chinese company. Earlier this month the Trump campaign released an ad that focused on Hunter Biden’s work in China and suggested a former governor of Washington was a Chinese official. The White House also tried to make Hunter Biden’s work with a Ukrainian company an issue during Trump’s impeachment.

The president and his campaign have also targeted Biden for criticizing Trump’s decision to restrict travel from China, a misleading charge included in the ads. Trump and his allies say that Biden called the travel order “xenophobic.” Biden never specifically called the restrictions xenophobic or racist, though he has said it is racist for Trump to call the disease the “Chinese virus” and said Jan. 31 that Trump has a “record of hysteria and xenophobia -- hysterical xenophobia -- and fear-mongering.”

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