After the National People’s Congress removed presidential term limits in 2018, there was much speculation that Xi Jinping would remain in power past the end of his second term in 2023. Then 2019 happened. China’s trade war with the United States dragged on, with no end in sight. Hongkongers took to the streets to protest against Beijing’s backtracking on Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” form of governance. Relations with Taipei worsened. And finally, Covid-19, a disease outbreak that began in Wuhan , went global, and brought heaps of opprobrium on Xi and Beijing. These events have made some outside China wonder aloud how much criticism Xi is facing behind the scenes from Communist Party rivals and colleagues. No one knows, of course, but Covid-19 has surely been bad for both China and its leader. Yet, as bad as it is, the pandemic may end up helping Xi too. Covid-19 may solve his Donald Trump problem. The first identified cases of Covid-19 showed up in Wuhan late last year. As news about the cases grew, much of the world believed, or was led to believe, that the virus could be largely contained in China, if not Wuhan itself . Sometime towards the end of January , people outside China began questioning this premise. In February, doubts grew in volume. By March, Covid was a full-blown worldwide crisis . Projections of US deaths were particularly dire. The US was ranked as best prepared for pandemics in 2019. What happened? Finger-pointing began in the US, innocuously at first, with politicians and the media simply referring to the virus as the “Wuhan” or “Chinese virus” . The rhetoric grew harsher, with Beijing increasingly criticised for its actions and failures to act in the early days of the outbreak. Beijing took umbrage and began fighting back with a global public relations campaign. Some of Beijing’s PR efforts took the form of fake news , a story I chronicled several weeks ago for Post Magazine . Some took the form of intimations that US President Trump and others in his administration were xenophobic or racially motivated. One narrative held that China, as the nation that suffered first, was saved by its (superior) system of governance and is now working benevolently to help humanity get through an unfortunate crisis for which no one should really be blamed. This is backfiring. Some say playing up China’s humanitarian efforts is overdoing it. Others are less diplomatic. Either way, some of the criticism is surely fair and Beijing will pay a diplomatic price for it. Whether and how that redounds to Xi, one can only guess. But the pandemic itself may have sort of a “my enemy's enemy is my friend” silver lining for Xi. One could argue that Covid-19 is less of a threat to Xi than the Trump administration is. And the pandemic, ironically, may help Xi with his Trump problem. Trump’s political opponents and much of the US media are using the Covid-19 crisis to bludgeon him mercilessly. Trump bashing has rolled right from Ukraine and impeachment to his handling of the pandemic. Time for US media to focus on medical experts, not Trump His daily press briefings – long and replete with nasty, petty exchanges with reporters – are lowering public opinion on both the man and his leadership. Even staunch supporters are wondering aloud whether he’s talking too much. Of course he is. A recent briefing provided an example. After a Homeland Security scientist said that sunshine, UV light and various disinfectants were effective in killing the virus on surfaces, Trump began thinking out loud about whether light or disinfectants might also work on humans. “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute – one minute – and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning?” It takes a vivid imagination to claim he was suggesting filling a syringe with something you find under your sink and giving yourself a shot. The Trump-hating press was up to the task. Soon, headlines like “President Trump claims injecting people with disinfectant could treat coronavirus” and “Trump’s disinfectant remarks were tantamount to peddling death” arrived, twisting his words to the worst possible interpretations. All he had to say in defence was, “Look at the video, that’s not what I said.” But he didn’t. Instead he claimed he was “asking a question sarcastically”, which was so obviously untrue that it was hard for even his most loyal supporters to spin the story in his favour. Back to Beijing. As bad as Covid-19 has been for China’s image around the world, it may turn out to be a godsend for Xi if it means the end of Trump in the White House. Covid-19 has solidified bipartisan animus towards Beijing in Washington. Xi and his colleagues have much work to do to repair the damage. Who do you think they would rather have in the White House next term as they try to do this, Trump or the guy Trump calls “Beijing Biden”? Not a soul on the planet has done more to make Xi’s life hard over the past three years than Trump. So, while Beijing will justifiably be the target of widespread opprobrium as a result of Covid-19, if the pandemic jettisons Trump from the White House, Xi will have made lemonade out of an especially sour lemon. Robert Boxwell is director of the consultancy Opera Advisors Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.