Trump says COVID-19 and other issues frayed “great bond” with Xi

US President Donald Trump said his erstwhile "great" bond with Chinese President Xi has frayed in the wake of the novel coronavirus.

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US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping has frayed in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic and that he has not spoken to his Chinese counterpart in a long time.

“I used to have a very good relationship with him,” Trump told Fox Sports Radio in an interview, citing their Phase One trade deal hammered out last year and signed in early 2020. “I had a great relationship with President Xi. I like him, but I don’t feel the same way now.”

COVID-19 changed my feelings toward Xi: Trump

Trump said his feelings changed amid Covid-19.

“I certainly feel differently. I had a very, very good relationship, and I haven’t spoken to him in a long time.”

Trump, who is seeking re-election in the Nov 3 US election, made challenging China a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign and touted his friendly ties with Xi during much of his first term in office as he sought to make good on his trade deal promises.

Read more: US-China ‘Cold War’: how bad can it get?

But he said on Tuesday that the fallout from the outbreak was worse than the conflict over trade. “This is a thousand times the trade deal what happened with all of the death and … the world had to shutdown. It’s a disgrace,” he told Fox.

First reports of the virus emerged from China in late 2019 and it has now infected more than 20 million people and killed at least 735,369 worldwide, including at least 5.1 million cases and at least 163,160 deaths in the United States.

US-China ties rapidly sinking amid Covid and other issues

US-China ties have also frayed over Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong and the disputed South China Sea, among other issues.

Asked about the arrest of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong under China’s new security law, as well as issues over Taiwan, Trump pointed to his administration’s steps to end Hong Kong’s special trading status. He did not address the arrest of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai, one of the city’s most prominent activists.

Read more: USA looks to reign in Taiwan ahead of wrangle with China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Monday said the United States was troubled by Lai’s arrest.

In better times: Trump allegedly asked Xi for help in reelection

Earlier, it was revealed in a book by ex-aide Bolton that Donald Trump urged Chinese president Xi Jinping to buy more US agricultural produce to help him win re-election.

According to The Washington Post and other US media that obtained a copy of the memoirThe Room Where It Happened, Mr Bolton said Mr Trump conducted foreign policy entirely for his own political benefit.

“I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” he wrote.

Read more: While Trump dithers, Xi Jinping eager to shape new world order

When the US and Chinese leaders met in Osaka last year, Mr Trump stunned his team by asking Mr Xi for help winning critical agricultural states, according to the book, released last month.

The Financial Times reported last year that Mr Trump had told Mr Xi in Osaka that he would tone down criticism of China’s handling of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to help revive then-stalled trade negotiations. The White House did not refute the claims at the time.

Mr Bolton said he wanted to quote Mr Trump’s comments to Mr Xi but was blocked by the government’s pre-publication review. The US president has slammed Mr Bolton and urged his team to try to block publication.

Taiwan Trip: the latest attempt by US to encircle China

On a visit to Taiwan this week, The United States’ top health official lauded Taiwan’s democracy and its response to the coronavirus. Taiwan’s president hailed the island’s growing economic and public health ties with the United States.

Mr. Azar’s trip, the highest-level visit to Taiwan by an American official since Washington severed official ties with the island in 1979, pointed to the increasingly important role Taiwan will play in a brewing ideological battle between the two superpowers. Taiwan and the United States have frequently framed their alliance as one based on “shared democratic values,” and China’s reaction was a reminder of the risks the island faces as it seeks a stronger relationship with Washington.

Read more: Trump ex-aide Bolton claims further impeachable offences by Trump

To Beijing, the visit is considered yet another provocation from the United States at the most volatile time in the bilateral relationship in decades. The ruling Communist Party sees the interactions between Taiwan and Washington as a challenge to its sovereignty and in defiance of its threats to unify the island with the mainland by force.

To the Trump administration, Mr. Azar’s visit is a chance to take a jab at China, which has sought to spin the coronavirus crisis as a testament to the strength of its authoritarian system. It is a way for Washington to show that it backs Taiwan in the face of increasing efforts by China to keep the island off the international stage.

As the United States and China dig into a protracted battle, countries around the world are concerned that their interests could get lost in the mix.

GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources