On Friday, President Donald Trump weighed in on U.S.-China relations, announcing that the United States is breaking ties with the World Health Organization because “China has total control” over the organization. The president also said Hong Kong is no longer autonomous due to China’s new security law, and that therefore it no longer warrants the “special treatment” it has been getting.
Brewing in the backdrop of Trump’s announcement has been weeks of mounting U.S. pressure on Beijing over its role in the spread of the coronavirus, with Trump alleging that China failed to prevent the spread of the virus and that it originated in a Wuhan laboratory. Increasing U.S.-China tensions even more, China also proposed a security law last week that threatens Hong Kong’s independence and autonomy.
The president addressed both these geopolitical concerns on Friday.
Trump, referring to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan Virus," said China’s early inaction is to blame for the loss of over 100,000 American lives.
On the role of the World Health Organization, Trump said, “China has total control over the WHO, despite only paying $40 million per year, compared to what the U.S. has been paying, which is approximately $450 million a year. We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, and they have refused to act. We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.”
Trump said Hong Kong will not receive special treatment anymore, and that it can no longer be called autonomous. This is in response to a new Beijing security law that would bar opposition movements and protest in Hong Kong. Trump mentioned a number of changes, including ones to the existing extradition treaty, export controls, travel advisories, and more.
Notably, the trade deal with China was kept intact.
The market fell sharply in anticipation of the conference, which was first announced on Thursday. The Dow plummeted 300 points in a 45-minute period before trading closed for the day at 4 p.m. Stocks were mixed in late-day trading Friday.