‘We Had China Exactly Where We Wanted Them,’ Trump Says, in Criticizing Biden’s Policy

‘We Had China Exactly Where We Wanted Them,’ Trump Says, in Criticizing Biden’s Policy
Then-President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Valley International Airport after visiting the U.S.–Mexico border wall, in Harlingen, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Cathy He

Former President Donald Trump on Feb. 17 expressed dismay at the Biden administration’s stance toward China, pointing to the Biden family’s business ties with the regime in Beijing.

When asked about President Joe Biden’s comments on Feb. 16 that appeared to repeat Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talking points used to justify the government’s repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, Trump noted the controversy surrounding Biden’s son, Hunter, and his dealings with China.

“His family’s involved with the Chinese, certainly, a long time and a lot of money,” Trump said in an interview with Newsmax. “The whole thing is ridiculous: We had China exactly where we wanted them.”

Hunter Biden attracted scrutiny during last year’s election season after a former business partner disclosed to media outlets a trove of text messages, some of which demonstrated his close ties to a Chinese billionaire. Other messages suggested Joe Biden was aware of his son’s business activity, although candidate Biden denied knowledge of his son’s dealings.

The revelations prompted concern about foreign influence on U.S. policy.

Federal investigators are currently probing Hunter Biden’s “tax affairs,” including reportedly his business dealings with China. While he also holds a stake in a Chinese private equity firm, the White House press secretary said earlier this month that the younger Biden “has been working to unwind his investment.”
During the final year of Trump’s presidency, the administration escalated its pushback on an array of threats posed by the CCP. For example, it imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, banned U.S. investment in Chinese companies that aid the military, and rallied allies to exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from their 5G mobile networks.

Trump’s remarks came a day after Biden, during a CNN Town Hall event, said that he brought up with Chinese leader Xi Jinping the regime’s abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan during a two-hour phone call. He said his counterpart was focused on maintaining a “united, tightly controlled China.”

Biden said he pointed out to Xi that “no American president can be sustained as a President if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States. ... He gets it. Culturally, there are different norms in each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”

The president’s comments about “different norms” attracted criticism from Republicans and rights activists who accused him of lending legitimacy to the CCP’s rights abuses in Xinjiang, where more than a million Uyghurs are currently detained in concentration camps. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the atrocities a genocide, a move that Biden officials have expressed agreement with.

Responding to those remarks, Pompeo said Biden was echoing Chinese propaganda.

“That language—that it’s just a set of different norms—that’s the Chinese propaganda line. They want you to think, this is just a quiet nation [that] may have a little bit of a different system,” Pompeo said on Fox Business.

“The truth of the matter is, they are trying to wipe out an entire people,” he said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) said the president’s comments indicated that his stance is all talk and no action.

“Joe Biden’s message to Xi was clear: I have to criticize you publicly but will work with you privately,“ NRSC spokeswoman Priscilla Ivasco said in a Feb. 17 statement. ”But, in doing so, he rationalized Xi Jinping’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the genocide against the Uyghurs. “

Biden also said during the event that the Chinese regime would face repercussions over its human rights violations.

Top officials in the Biden administration have broadly indicated that the United States would continue taking a tough line toward the CCP and seek to work with allies to achieve this. The White House is reviewing Trump-era China policies and has yet to announce concrete plans on how to deal with the regime.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regime has called on the new administration to reset the United States’ approach to China and warned it not to interfere in its “internal affairs,” including Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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