On Wednesday, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell feared that President Trump’s criticism of China’s mishandling of coronavirus amounted to a “resurgence of xenophobia” and “anti-China scapegoating.” She even cast doubt on U.S. intelligence warning that the communist regime was looking to hack organizations conducting medical research on the pandemic.
Talking to Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, Mitchell declared: “I want to ask you about this growing antagonism between the U.S. and China. The President, some would say, is trying to scapegoat China…” While she acknowledged that the authoritarian nation “has misbehaved in terms of its lack of transparency on what happened in Wuhan and the whole eruption of this virus,” the host seemed more concerned by the Trump administration:
For his part, Haass took a few moments to list all of the ways China has given the U.S. “heartburn” recently:
Putting aside the geopolitical indigestion, Mitchell proceeded to actually tout China’s handling of the virus compared to the U.S.: “And what we see now in Wuhan today, they’ve had another outbreak. And so now they’re planning to test 11 million Wuhan residents. It does show that China has the capacity that we have yet to have in terms of going after a population when there is a spike.” Haass agreed: “Absolutely….in our own rush to quote/unquote ‘return to normal,’ we will probably trigger all sorts of outbreaks and spikes.”
Mitchell then seized on an exchange Trump had with CBS reporter Weijia Jiang during a White House press conference earlier in the week as evidence of “xenophobia” and the President being a “racist”: “…we are risking a real resurgence of xenophobia as a result of this and other things that have happened. I wanted to play a little bit of the President in the Rose Garden on Monday and the way he reacted to a reporter from CBS, who is Chinese-American.”
After Jiang accused Trump of thinking the pandemic was “a global competition” to compare infection rates and testing capacity, the President shot back: “Well, they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China.” Jiang immediately attempted to spin the comment as a racial slur against her: “Sir, why are you saying that to me specifically?” Trump replied: “I’m not saying it specifically to anybody. I’m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that.”
Following the clip, Mitchell ranted: “There’s a lot wrapped up in that. The – what some said is a racist reaction to an Asian-American, anti-China scapegoating as well, and anti-press bias of course.” Haass asserted: “All the of the above.”
Throughout the global health crisis, the liberal media have consistently rushed to defend China from criticism, especially if that criticism came from the President of the United States.
12:43 PM ET
ANDREA MITCHELL: Today, according ro Ken Dilanian of NBC News, the U.S. government is warning that Chinese hackers, including the Chinese military, are trying to steal secret U.S. advances on vaccines for COVID-19 by targeting U.S. health care and pharmaceutical companies. U.S. officials are also investigating whether Iranian hackers are doing the same.
Joining us now, Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And his new book is The World: A Brief Introduction. A big topic with a brief introduction. Thanks so much, we’ve got the book here and congratulations on that.
RICHARD HAASS: Thank you.
MITCHELL: I want to ask you about this growing antagonism between the U.S. and China. The President, some would say, is trying to scapegoat China, but China has misbehaved in terms of its lack of transparency on what happened in Wuhan and the whole eruption of this virus, this pandemic. And now we’re told that Chinese hackers are trying to get our vaccine research. We’re in a situation where there’s so much potential disinformation coming from some parts of our administration that we don’t know what to believe. But this is what the intelligence community is warning. Where do we stand with China?
HAASS: Well, I would expect the reports are true that the Chinese are trying to steal the information. This would be totally in character. They have stolen, over the decades, all sorts of industrial and technology secrets from American companies. So this would be consistent with that. And the criticism of China, up to a point, is fair. They’ve behaved poorly, to say the least, in how they’ve handled the outbreak of the coronavirus in their country. They’ve not cooperated fully with other countries. They’ve pressured countries like Australia, who have called for a complete investigation.
And China’s doing a lot of other things that should give us heartburn. Whether it’s repressing democracy activists in Hong Kong, they’re violating the terms of the agreement they signed when the British handed it over. They’re repressing more than a million Muslims in their country. They’re unilaterally changing the geography of the South China Sea. So there’s reasons to have real heartburn.
But, and it’s a big but, I’d say two things. This is a critical relationship. It’s the most important relationship of the 21st Century, so we don’t want it to go all bad if possible. If possible, we’d like to protect the ability to cooperate with China selectively so you can deal with North Korea or to deal with something like Climate Change. So I don’t see China, for all of its bad things, posing the same sort of threat that the Soviet Union did. But also, if we can, we don’t want to have a one-dimensional relationship. We do want to – even though we compete and even though we have to push back – we do want to preserve some areas of potential cooperation.
MITCHELL: And what we see now in Wuhan today, they’ve had another outbreak. And so now they’re planning to test 11 million Wuhan residents. It does show that China has the capacity that we have yet to have in terms of going after a population when there is a spike.
HAASS: Absolutely. I think there’s two lessons here, and one we had really better take to heart. Going back too soon almost guarantees, or certainly invites, a new wave of infection. So my hunch is, in our own rush to quote/unquote “return to normal,” we will probably trigger all sorts of outbreaks and spikes. The other is it reminds us of the centrality of testing. You know, we’ve tested – we’ve done how ever many millions of tests, we need to be able to perform more than that number every day, every day. We need to think of getting to the point with testing the same way that we walk through these devices to show that we don’t have metal when we go on airplanes or into stadiums. We want to have testing devices before we go into buildings. And that way anyone who’s identified as positive can be turned away. They can be quarantined. And then we can do the contact tracing. We are nowhere near – we’re not even in the right zip code of what it will take in order to do effective testing.
MITCHELL: You’re writing about the world you deal with, the world every day and all of its complexities. And yet, we are risking a real resurgence of xenophobia as a result of this and other things that have happened. I wanted to play a little bit of the President in the Rose Garden on Monday and the way he reacted to a reporter from CBS, who is Chinese-American.
WEIJIA JIANG: You said many times that the U.S. is doing far better than any other country when it comes to testing.
DONALD TRUMP: Yes.
JIANG: Why does that matter? Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives, and we’re still seeing more cases every day?
TRUMP: Well, they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China.
JIANG: Why do you –
TRUMP: Don’t ask me. Ask China that question, okay? When you ask them that question, you may get a very unusual answer. Yes, behind you, please.
JIANG: Sir, why are you saying that to me specifically?
TRUMP: I’m telling you. I’m not saying it specifically to anybody. I’m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that.
JIANG: That’s not a nasty question.
TRUMP: Please go ahead.
JIANG: Why does it matter?
TRUMP: Okay, anybody else?
MITCHELL: And of course that then led to him walking out of the Rose Garden. There’s a lot wrapped up in that. The – what some said is a racist reaction to an Asian-American, anti-China scapegoating as well, and anti-press bias of course.
HAASS: All the of the above. And I would say two other things as well. And it gets into your comment about xenophobia. If this is a crisis that came from abroad, it’s the lesson that in a global age, nothing stays local for long. Our borders, our sovereignty, don’t offer defenses. We’ve got to, first of all, recognize that. This kind of isolationism makes no sense.
And second of all, if there’s a successful response, it’s going to come from working with others, whether it’s working with Europeans on developing a vaccine, working with a lot of countries on providing the economic health that poorer countries in the world are going to need. This really, to me, highlights the limits of an America First approach to American foreign policy. In a global age, isolationism and unilateralism are simply not viable strategies for the United States.
MITCHELL: Richard Haass, thank you so much. The book is The World: A Brief Introduction, congratulations on that.