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Trump, Biden Spar With Tough China Talk07/12 10:48

   China has fast become a top election issue as President Donald Trump and 
Democrat Joe Biden engage in a verbal brawl over who's better at playing the 
tough guy against Beijing.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- China has fast become a top election issue as President 
Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden engage in a verbal brawl over who's better 
at playing the tough guy against Beijing.

   The Trump campaign put out ads showing Biden toasting China's Xi Jinping, 
even though Trump did just that with Xi in Asia and hosted the Chinese leader 
at his Florida club. Spots from the Biden campaign feature Trump playing down 
the coronavirus and praising Xi for being transparent about the pandemic, even 
though it's clear China hid details of the outbreak from the world.

   "I think it's going to be absolutely critical, but I don't know who is going 
to have the advantage," said Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He has been 
reviewing the ads and thinks China is one of the three leading issues along 
with the economy and the handling of the coronavirus.

   China is not just a foreign policy issue in the November election. It's an 
issue that runs deeply through the troubles with the virus, which tanked the 
U.S. economy. Voters also will be asking themselves whether Trump or Biden can 
best defend the U.S. against China's unfair trade practices, theft of 
intellectual property rights, rising aggression across the globe and human 
rights abuses.

   "Which person looks more subservient to the Chinese leaders is the person 
who's in more jeopardy," Luntz said.

   As the coronavirus spread throughout the U.S., a Pew Research Center poll in 
March found Americans with increasingly negative views of China, with 66% 
saying they had an unfavorable opinion. That was the most negative rating since 
the question was first asked in 2005. The same poll found 62% of Americans 
calling China's power and influence a major threat to the U.S., compared with 
48% two years ago.

   A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in late May and early June found 
registered voters about evenly divided over which of the candidates would be 
better at dealing with China, with 43% saying Trump compared with 40% for 
Biden. In the poll, 5% viewed Trump and Biden equally, while 10% said neither 
would be good.

   Trump's advisers see China as an opportunity to portray Biden as deferential 
to Beijing when he was President Barack Obama's vice president and point person 
on Asia, according to three campaign officials and Republicans close to the 
White House. The campaign made a push in May to link Biden with China, complete 
with an advertising blitz, but the effort did little to raise Trump's poll 
numbers.

   The Trump campaign credits the president with signing the first phase of a 
trade deal with China in January, which boosted stock markets and seemingly 
ended a bruising trade war. Republicans want to tether Biden to past 
multinational agreements and trade deals blamed for an exodus of manufacturing 
jobs across the Midwest. Trump campaign officials believe they missed that 
opportunity in trying to wrest Midwest states from the Democrats in 2016.

   The White House lists more than two dozen actions the administration has 
taken since April to protect U.S. jobs, businesses and U.S. supply chains from 
damage caused by the Chinese Communist Party's policies. That includes last 
week's move to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for their roles in 
repressing religious and ethnic minorities. More than a few administration 
officials have recently delivered speeches calling out China's policies.

   That message could strike a chord with the increasing number of Americans 
who have an unfavorable view of the Asian power. There also is rising concern 
about U.S. dependence on China for supplies --- something that drew attention 
during the scramble for protective gear for U.S. health workers.

   One more line of off-and-on attack by Trump, despite no proof of 
impropriety, involves the business ties that Biden's son, Hunter, has had with 
China.

   The Biden campaign is working to portray Trump as someone who talks tough 
but has failed to hold China accountable for its response to the virus and has 
signed only the first phase of a trade deal. The campaign says that while that 
deal was being negotiated, Trump was saying that COVID-19 would "miraculously" 
be gone in April and now it's July and cases are surging and the death toll 
rising.

   "Trump said he'd get tough on China," one of Biden campaign ads says. "He 
didn't get tough. He got played."

   The Biden camp highlights other Trump vulnerabilities on China that surfaced 
in former national security adviser John Bolton 's new book, which claims Trump 
urged Xi to increase Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat to help him Trump 
farm states in November. Bolton also wrote that Trump told Xi that building 
detention camps for hundreds of thousands of Muslim and other ethnic and 
religious minorities in western China was "exactly the right thing to do."

   Trump claims he's been tougher on China than any other president. The Biden 
campaign says Trump has weakened relations with allies and pulled the U.S. out 
of international organizations, giving China more room to exert its own 
influence. Biden campaign officials say that if Biden is elected, he will 
restore relationships with U.S. allies and rally the international community to 
form a united front against China.

   "What's striking to me is the extent to which the Trump campaign seems to 
have thought that China would be a winning issue for them," said Jeff Prescott, 
a foreign policy adviser for Biden.

   "He was hiding from the warning signs coming in on the pandemic to get his 
trade deal done with Xi Jinping and then spent all of January and February and 
into March praising Xi --- praising China's handling of the coronavirus --- and 
talking up his very flimsy phase one trade deal," Prescott said.

   That first phase is smaller than the comprehensive deal Trump had hoped for 
and leaves many of the thorniest issues between the two countries for future 
talks. Few economists expect any resolution of the next phase before November. 
Even Trump said this past week that it's not a top priority before then.

   ___

   Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this 
report.

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