Donald Trump and Xi Jinping spoke by phone on Friday, signaling a potential thaw in relations between the two most powerful countries in the world after weeks of bitter talks over the coronavirus pandemic.
In a tweet, the President described his first interaction with his Chinese counterpart since the start of the epidemic three months ago “very good”.
“China has gone through a lot [and] has developed a solid understanding of the virus, “added Trump. “We work closely together. Great respect! “
Chinese state media said Mr. Xi spoke with Mr. Trump “at the invitation of the American side” and offered to “share without reservation [China’s] experience in prevention, control, and treatment efforts with the World Health Organization and countries, including the United States. ”
Trump has stopped calling the coronavirus “Chinese virus” in recent days, which has caused anger among Beijing officials and internal criticism that he is fueling anti-Asian sentiment as the virus spreads rapidly in the USA.
U.S. officials countered that the designation was fair given the approval by some Chinese diplomats of unproven conspiracy theories blaming the U.S. military for the epidemic, which began in the central city of Wuhan in December or November.
However, other senior Trump administration officials continued to insist that the virus be called “Wuhan coronavirus”.
The war of words threatened to hinder any prospect of meaningful cooperation between the United States and China as the pandemic continued to spread rapidly around the world. It also coincided with a Beijing charm offensive announcing the dispatch of medical supplies and teams to European countries struggling to contain the pandemic.
Trump and Xi spoke just hours after the number of officially confirmed cases in the United States surpassed those in China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also announced on Thursday evening that it would prohibit almost all foreign nationals from entering the country even if they hold valid work and residence permits.
As the number of locally transmitted cases in China has decreased in recent weeks, the government has been alarmed by a spike in so-called imported cases of people arriving in the most populous nation in the world. However, most of the carriers are Chinese nationals.
Chinese aviation regulator also said on Thursday that he would limit all international airlines still operating flights to and from China to a single weekly service, making it even more difficult for Chinese expats to return. at their home.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi had both participated in an emergency videoconference with G20 leaders to discuss the pandemic.
The United States recorded 85,505 cases of coronavirus with 1,288 deaths, compared to 81,340 and 3,292 respectively in China. But official figures for cases in China, unlike most other countries, do not include “asymptomatic” carriers who have no symptoms. If such cases were included, it is estimated that China’s official tally could be up to 50% higher.