A rift between the US and China over the novel coronavirus escalated on Tuesday as President Donald Trump angered Beijing by referring to the pathogen as the “Chinese Virus.”
The two countries have sparred over the origin of the virus for days, with a Chinese official promoting conspiracy theories claiming it was brought to China by the US army and American officials using terms seen as stigmatising a nation.
On Monday night, he tweeted:
“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus,”
Trump’s allies had previously referred to the pandemic as the “Chinese coronavirus”.Beijing said Tuesday it was “strongly indignant” over the phrase, which it called “a kind of stigmatisation”.The United States should “immediately stop its unjustified accusations against China,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.A commentary by the official Xinhua news agency said using “racist and xenophobic names to cast blame for the outbreak on other countries can only reveal politicians’ irresponsibility and incompetence which will intensify virus fears”.
The war of words reignited diplomatic tensions between the two countries, which have tussled over trade and other disputes since Trump took office.Trump’s comments were criticised inside the US, with warnings it could incite a backlash against the Asian-American community.The State Department on Friday summoned the Chinese ambassador, Cui Tiankai, to denounce Beijing’s promotion of a conspiracy theory that had gained wide attention on social media.Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested on Twitter last week that “patient zero” in the global pandemic may have come from the United States.“It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation,” tweeted Zhao, who is known for his provocative statements on social media.