Chinese president Xi Jinping has called on Donald Trump to take “substantive actions” to improve relations between the two countries, as China prepared to shut its borders to foreign arrivals amid fears of infections coming from abroad.
On Friday, Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping held a phone call about the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to repair strained relations, following weeks of traded barbs over the virus. According to state media, Xi told Trump in a phone call on Friday that US-China relations had reached an “important juncture”.
“Working together brings both sides benefits, fighting hurts both. Cooperation is the only choice,” he said. Xi said he hoped the US would take “substantive actions” to improve US-China relations to develop a relationship that is “without conflict and confrontation” but based on “mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Trump has continued to call the disease “the Chinese virus,” despite protestations from Beijing. Chinese diplomats have in turn pushed the idea that the virus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, originated in the US.
Xi also said he hoped the US would take “effective measures” to safeguard the lives of Chinese citizens in the US, describing the pandemic as the “common enemy of mankind.” He said: “Only by united can the international community defeat it.”
After the phone call, Trump said he had a “very good conversation” with Xi. He wrote on Twitter that China had “developed a strong understanding of the virus” and was working with the US.
Donald J. Trump
Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!
Starting on Friday, China will temporarily bar the entry of almost all foreigners and drastically reduce flights to the country. The ban comes as the country reported its first locally infected coronavirus infection in three days and reported 54 imported cases. The move was greeted with broad support inside China.
The measure applies to those with valid visas or residence permits and amounts to China shutting its borders, inviting criticism given that Beijing previously condemned other countries for similar moves. At the time, World Health Organization also advised countries not to shut their borders to Chinese travellers.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration said late on Thursday that 90% of international flights would be suspended. The number of incoming passengers would be cut to 5,000 a day, from 25,000. China has also ordered local airlines to maintain only one route per country, once a week, as of 29 March.
Some say the new measures are unwarranted given already strict screening of arrivals and the fact that many incoming carriers of the virus are Chinese citizens. Vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui said at a press conference this week that 90% of imported cases were Chinese passport holders.
In Beijing, all overseas arrivals must undergo quarantine at government-designated centres. Shanghai and other cities and provinces have implemented similarly strict rules.
As China prepares to return to work and officials lift lockdowns in Hubei province, the step was greeted with support online. “I support” several wrote in comments under news of the temporary
“This could not have been easy decision. I support it,” one wrote. “Foreigners should not be allowed in. Our frontline people fought so hard and foreigners are harder to regulate.”
“Finally,” several others commented. “We’ve waited very long for this,” another said. Others were angry that overseas Chinese would still be allowed to return home. “Those Chinese living overseas should just not come back,” one said.
The interim ban on foreigners could contribute further to diplomatic tensions as Beijing and Washington trade barbs over who is to blame for the outbreak that first emerged in central China in December before spreading to much of the rest of the world. US president Donald Trump has repeatedly called coronavirus “the Chinese virus”, prompting condemnation from Beijing.
The US has now overtaken China in terms of infections, with more than 85,500 cases, compared to 81,340 in mainland China. The death toll in China was 3,292, according to health officials on Friday.
Donald Trump’s instinctive response was to question other countries’ statistics. “It’s a tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing,” Trump told reporters. “We’re doing tremendous testing, and I’m sure you’re not able to tell what China is testing or not testing. I think that’s a little hard.”