Former Trump ally Chris Christie said Thursday that President Trump sent the wrong message while in office by praising Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “good guy,” saying Mr. Xi should have been called out as a human-rights abuser.
Mr. Christie, a former New Jersey governor who served as an informal adviser to Mr. Trump, said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that Mr. Trump’s “biggest failing” as president was the admiration he regularly expressed for Mr. Xi when he was trying to preserve a major trade deal with Beijing.
Mr. Xi “didn’t deserve it, and it sent the wrong message to the American people,” Mr. Christie said. “I think it sent the wrong message to the Chinese.”
He said, “At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis/pandemic, President Trump was praising President Xi for the actions that he was taking, saying that President Xi was doing a great job, and he trusted President Xi to control the virus. I don’t know based on what conduct those decisions were made, because I’ve never seen President Xi do anything that showed he would respect the rights of human beings to be safe, secure and happy.”
Mr. Trump praised Mr. Xi often as he pursued a trade deal with Beijing. At the start of the pandemic in the early months of 2020, he also expressed confidence that Mr. Xi would get the COVID-19 crisis under control.
Asked if he spoke with Mr. Trump at the time about the Chinese leader, Mr. Christie replied, “I did, and he thought he was a good guy. That’s what he told me.”
“I can’t imagine he thought he was a good person, but I think that translated into ‘strong leader,’” Mr. Christie said. “But to me, he’s a dictator, an autocrat, and a human rights abuser. And the word, the phrase, rather, ‘good guy,’ should never be used regarding somebody who has that record.”
Mr. Christie, who is mulling a bid for the White House in 2024, said he hasn’t spoken to the former president recently. He dismissed speculation among some Trump supporters that the former president will somehow be reinstated in the presidency in August.
“The problem with all of this is for our party, and then ultimately for our country, is that all of this backward-looking talk, whether it comes from the former president, from supporters and allies of his in this regard, is bad for our party and bad for our country,” Mr. Christie said. “Parties that look backwards, Hugh, are losers. Let us remember that we lost the House, the Senate and the White House within two years [under Mr. Trump]. The only time that’s happened to our party before is Herbert Hoover. So we’re talking about historic losses here, and the way for us to recover from it is not to continue to look backwards, but to look forwards.”