Chinese State Media Editor Mocks Trump Over Virus Diagnosis

October 2, 2020 Updated: October 7, 2020

Some Chinese state media outlets reacted with scorn after President Donald Trump announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19 early on Oct. 2.

Their diagnosis had to do with the administration’s response to the pandemic, suggested Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run tabloid Global Times.

“President Trump and the first lady have paid the price for his gamble to play down the COVID-19,” he wrote on Twitter. The post, which has since been deleted, was published about an hour after Trump first announced the test results.

Hu further suggested that Trump’s infection will “impose a negative impact on the image of Trump and the US, and may also negatively affect his reelection.”

Three of China’s main central government-run outlets, Xinhua, CCTV, and People’s Daily, published short articles on the news without commentary.

Late on Oct. 2, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters that the nation hopes the Trumps will recover soon.

Trump confirmed their COVID-19 diagnoses shortly after his close aide Hope Hicks tested positive on Thursday. They have both begun self-quarantining at the White House, and “are both well at this time,” according to the president’s physician Sean Conley.

State-run outlet China Daily said the positive test is “yet another reminder that the coronavirus continues to spread” and went on to criticize the administration’s handling of the pandemic.

On the Chinese internet, netizens expressed disbelief and well wishes upon hearing the news of Trump’s infection.

Some small business owners used the news as an opportunity to promote their products, with one small private cell phone shop declaring on Weibo that it would give a 200 to 500 yuan ($30 to $74) discount on cell phones to celebrate Trump’s positive diagnosis. A coffee shop said it would give away a cup of American coffee to all patrons.

Another group of Chinese criticized these business owners and those who expressed schadenfreude at Trump’s diagnosis.

Blogger Cai Xiaoseng, who has more than 113,500 followers, quoted German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe on Weibo: “When people really deteriorate, their only contribution is malicious joy in the misfortune of others.”

A Chinese netizen who called himself Fatty Qiang expressed a similar sentiment: “If you gloat over other people’s afflictions, you are not worthy of being called a human.”

Some overseas Chinese-language media speculated about the reason why Beijing has largely refrained from making huge headlines about Trump’s diagnosis.

A commentary on Taiwan-based Liberty Times said that should the president become incapacitated, those next in line—Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi—both have “tough attitudes on China issues,” so Beijing is uncertain about how to react.

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