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In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the president once again sought to blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic and called on Beijing to be punished for its handling of the disease.
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Trump at the UN: America is good, China is bad
Displayed on a monitor, President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 24, 2019 in New York City. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images The president portrayed the US as a benevolent, responsible world leader — and China as the world’s aggressor. President Donald Trump used his fourth, and perhaps final, United Nations General Assembly speech to portray himself as a benevolent, responsible world leader and China as the world’s aggressor. “America is fulfilling our destiny as peacemaker,” he said in a pre-recorded address, touting US-brokered normalization-of-relations deals between Israel and two Arab nations, ongoing talks to end the Afghanistan war, and a Serbia and Kosovo pact signed at the White House. “As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China,” Trump added, referring to the coronavirus. In many ways, the speech was vintage Trump. He boasted that his America First approach to foreign policy — anathema to the UN’s multilateral ethos — is the best way forward for the US and the world. He beamed about US economic and military strength. And he bragged about his administration’s handling the coronavirus, even though nearly 200,000 Americans have died from the disease, while expressing hopes for a better, pandemic-less world. But the key takeaway is Trump’s framing of China as the nation most responsible for the Covid-19 outbreak, and therefore the country most deserving of the world’s scorn. It continues the Trump administration’s preference to speak of China as a Cold War-like enemy, with the US leading the way to rid the globe of its evil. “The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” Trump demanded. Many expected Trump to say these things, partly because he’s been saying them for months. Trump at first praised China’s handling of the coronavirus, and only started to speak belligerently about Beijing as his failure to control America’s outbreak became too big to ignore. Now he’s taken that message, at first geared toward a domestic audience, to the global stage. Of course, Trump neither vowed to distribute a coronavirus vaccine around the world, nor did he swear to tackle key global problems like climate change. Such failures may lead much of the speech to fall on deaf ears. But in terms of getting his main point across — US good, China bad — the short, virtually delivered speech likely did the trick. You can find a rush transcript of Trump’s UNGA speech below: It is my profound honor to address the United Nations General Assembly, 75 years after the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations. We are once again engaged in a great global struggle. We have waged a fierce battle against the invisible enemy — the China virus — which has claimed countless lives in 188 countries. In the United States, we launched the most aggressive mobilization, since the Second World War. We rapidly produced a record supply of ventilators creating a surplus that allowed us to share them with friends and partners all around the globe. We pioneered life saving treatments, reducing our fatality rate 85 percent since April. Thanks to our efforts, three vaccines are in the final stage of clinical trials. We are mass producing them in advance so they can be delivered immediately upon arrival. We will distribute a vaccine. We will defeat the virus. We will end the pandemic. And we will enter a new era of unprecedented prosperity, cooperation, and peace. As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China. In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China — and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they canceled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes. The Chinese government and the World Health Organization, which is virtually controlled by China, falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Later they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease. The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions. In addition, every year China dumps millions and millions of tonnes of plastic and trash into the oceans, over fishes other countries waters, destroys vast swaths of coral reef, and emits more toxic mercury into the atmosphere than any country anywhere in the world. China’s carbon emissions are nearly twice what the US has, and it’s rising fast. By contrast, after I withdrew from the one-sided Paris climate accord, last year America reduced its carbon emissions by more than any country in the agreement. Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment. They only want to punish America, and I will not stand for it. If the United Nations is to be an effective organization, it must focus on the real problems of the world. This includes terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities. America will always be a leader in human rights. My administration is advancing religious liberty, opportunity for women, the decriminalization of homosexuality, combating human trafficking, and protecting unborn children. We also know that American prosperity is the bedrock of freedom and security all over the world. In three short years, we built the greatest economy in history, and we are quickly doing it again. Our military has increased substantially in size: We spent $2.5 trillion over the last four years on our military. We have the most powerful military anywhere in the world — and it’s not even close. We stood up two decades of China’s trade abuses. We revitalized the NATO alliance, where other countries are now paying a much more fair share. We forged historic partnerships with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to stop human smuggling. We are standing with the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, in their righteous struggle for freedom. We withdrew from the terrible Iran nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. We obliterated the ISIS Caliphate 100 percent, killed its founder and leader, al-Baghdadi, and eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qassem Soleimani. This month, we achieved a peace deal between Serbia and Kosovo. We reached a landmark breakthrough with two peace deals in the Middle East after decades of no progress. Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain all signed a historic peace agreement in the White House with many other Middle Eastern countries to come. They are coming fast, and they know it’s great for them and it’s great for the world. These groundbreaking peace deals at the dawn of the new Middle East, by taking a different approach, we have achieved different outcomes — far superior outcomes. We took an approach, and the approach worked. We intend to deliver more peace agreements shortly, and I have never been more optimistic for the future of the region. There is no blood in the sand. Those days are hopefully over. As we speak, the United States is also working to end the war in Afghanistan, and we are bringing our troops home. America is fulfilling our destiny as peacemaker, but it is peace through strength. We are stronger now than ever before. Our weapons are at an advanced level, like we’ve never had before, like, frankly, we’ve never even thought of having before, and I only pray to God that we never have to use them. For decades, the same tired voices propose the same failed solutions, pursuing global ambitions at the expense of their own people. But only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation. As president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past, and I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. That’s okay. That’s what you should be doing. I am supremely confident that next year, when we gather in person, we will be in the midst of one of the greatest years in our history. And frankly, hopefully, in the history of the world. Thank you, God bless you all. God bless America. And God bless the United Nations. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
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