China's alleged role in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was to blame for economic crises in the United States, President Donald Trump said in the first televised debate ahead of the US elections in November.
“We built the greatest economy in history, we closed it down because of the China plague,” President Trump said, despite not being asked directly about China in the Tuesday debate.
But Democratic challenger Joe Biden accused Trump of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and praising efforts from the Chinese government.
“We were insisting that … the people we had on the ground in China should be able to go to Wuhan [where the first infections were reported] and determine for themselves how dangerous this was. [Trump] did not ask Xi to do that. He told us what a great job Xi was doing, he said we owe him a debt of gratitude for being so transparent with us," Biden said.
Trump lashed out, stating the former vice-president was influenced by China due to his son, Hunter Biden, having ties with Beijing for his role as a board member of BHR Equity Investment Fund Management in Shanghai.
The Biden campaign disputed the claims, stating that no charges were filed and no wrongdoing had been proven, according to the South China Morning Post.
Hostile Anti-Asian Comments Spark Major Study, US Debate Twitterstorm
Trump's statements referring to COVID-19 as the "China virus" numerous times in speeches and pressers come amid dismal polling numbers over his handling of the ongoing pandemic, the SCMP added.
“Research suggests that when people see Asian Americans as being more ‘foreign,’ they are more likely to express hostility toward them and engage in acts of violence and discrimination,” Rucker Johnson, public policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and study co-author told NBC Asian-American at the time.
Many on social media were quick to slam Trump's comments as racist, stating that such comments "incites violence" and should not be ignored.
Why-- WHY not call out the racism in real time? "China plague" should be immediately met with 'That's racist." #Debate2020— Natasha Rothwell (@natasharothwell) September 30, 2020
“China plague” is overt racism that ruins actual lives. It ruins lives. It incites violence. It’s not a small thing.#Debate2020— Krista Vernoff (@KristaVernoff) September 30, 2020
"Pocahantas," "the China plague" -- Trump has so normalized explicit racism that now such ugliness passes without comment.— Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet) September 30, 2020
Other topics at the event included race riots, electoral integrity, the economy and Supreme Court, among others. The current president frequently interrupted his challenger, sparking anger from Biden, who told Trump to "shut up" amid the debates.
"The people understand, Joe. Forty-seven years [in politics], you've done nothing. They understand," Trump responded
The comment came ahead of a major gaffe, where he refused to condemn the Proud Boys white supremacist group.