President Donald Trump spoke at length about China on Thursday, openly criticizing the ruling Communist Party for their handling of the coronavirus.
“I don’t understand how traffic, how people weren’t allowed into the rest of China but they were allowed into the rest of the world,” Trump said, recalling how the Chinese government blocked residents from the infected city of Wuhan from traveling to other parts of China.
The president spoke to reporters after a White House event promoting America’s seniors.
At times, Trump attempted to be diplomatic with China but frequently returned to criticism of their party leaders.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened, whether they made a mistake or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one, or did somebody do something on purpose?” Trump speculated.
Trump said there were three or four different theories about the origin of the virus – including bats, wet markets, and the virology lab in Wuhan – but that he had tasked intelligence officials and scientists to find more details.
“There are a lot of theories,” he said. “But we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people, and others.”
The president recalled that he ran against China during his presidential campaign, and after he was elected president, he put tough tariffs on products coming from China to help force them into tough negotiations on a trade deal.
Trump acknowledged that he was sometimes complimentary of China during the negotiations but that the spread of the coronavirus changed everything.
“Then we noticed a virus, and it’s not acceptable what happened,” Trump said. “It came out of China and it’s not acceptable what happened.”
The president said he was not considering the idea of the United States refusing to pay back America’s debt to China, despite some reports that White House officials were considering the idea.
“You start playing those games, that’s tough,” he said. “You know you have the dollar to protect. We want to protect the sanctity of the dollar … its the greatest currency in the history of the world.”
Trump said he could easily force more money from China by the use of tariffs or other means.
The president also hinted at his suspicions that the virus came out from a lab that was studying the virus.
“What gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” asked Fox News reporter John Roberts.
“I can’t tell you that, I’m not allowed to tell you that,” Trump replied.
Reporters also asked Trump about his claim that China wanted former Vice President Joe Biden to be the next president, asking if he believed that China was intentionally withholding information about the virus to hurt his reelection chances. But Trump demurred.
“I don’t want to cast any aspersions, I just will tell you that China would like to see ‘Sleepy’ Joe Biden,” he said. “They would take this country for a ride.”