“I have great respect for China, I like China, I think the people of China are incredible. I have a tremendous relationship with President Xi. I wish they could have told us earlier about what was going on inside,” Trump said.
The president said that his federal doctors could have used the extra time to prepare for the virus.
“China was secretive OK?” Trump said. “Very, very secretive, and that’s unfortunate.”
Trump said that a two or three month jump on the virus would have been helpful.
“They were having a big problem and they knew it, and I wish they could have given us an advance warning,” Trump said.
The president was questioned about his message on Twitter in January praising President Xi Jinping and his transparency.
Trump said that he felt that China was transparent at the time, but pointedly told reporters they did not escape unscathed from the virus.
“China has lost thousands and thousands of people,” Trump said. “China has gone through hell over this. They’ve gone through hell.”
Trump repeated that President Xi was “a friend” but wishes they would have been more vocal about the problem.
“I just wished they could have told us earlier,” Trump said.
Trump has sent a mixed message on China, frequently praising President Xi’s efforts to battle the coronavirus, but also describing it as the “Chinese virus” to remind the American public that it originated in China.
On February 13, Trump praised Xi as “extremely capable” for handling the crisis but admitted that “they want to put the best face on it.”
“You wouldn’t want to run out to the world and go crazy and start saying whatever it is, because you don’t want to create a panic,” he said during an interview with Geraldo Rivera.
The president told reporters on Saturday that he first took the coronavirus threat more seriously when he announced the travel bans on China on January 31.
“This last is important. Even in corporate environments, it is very difficult to remove an underling for incompetence if that underling has seniority and a long history of good performance reviews. As in government bureaucracies, the easiest way to deal with such people is often to “kick them upstairs”: promote them to a higher post, where they become somebody else’s problem.”