A rift between China and the US over the new coronavirus sparked on Tuesday when President Donald Trump angered Beijing by referring to the pathogen as the “Chinese virus.”
The two countries discussed the origin of the virus for days, with a Chinese official promoting conspiracy theories claiming that it was brought to China by the US Army and American officials using terms seen as stigmatizing 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 on Tuesday that it was “strongly outraged” by the phrase, which is called “a kind of stigmatization.”
The United States must “immediately stop its unwarranted accusations against China,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
A comment by the official Xinhua news agency said that the use of “racist and xenophobic names to blame the outbreak in other countries could only reveal the irresponsibility and incompetence of politicians, which will intensify fears of viruses.”
The war of words has rekindled diplomatic tensions between the two countries, which have vied for trade and other disputes since Trump took office.
Trump’s comments were criticized within the US, with warnings that this could provoke a reaction against the Asian-American community.
“Our Asian-American communities – the people you serve – are already suffering. They don’t need you to encourage more intolerance,” tweeted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose state is one of the hardest hit by the virus in the United States.
The World Health Organization said more cases and deaths were reported in the rest of the world than in China.
The new coronavirus virus was first detected at the end of last year, with health officials in China initially saying that its source was a live animal market in the central city of Wuhan, whose government had initially tried to cover up the outbreak.
But China has tried to distance itself from the virus, saying the source is still unknown while seeking global goodwill by offering help to countries facing serious outbreaks.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a phone call he initiated with top Chinese official Yang Jiechi, expressed anger that Beijing had used official channels “to shift the blame for COVID-19 to the United States,” the Department said.
Pompeo “emphasized that this is not the time to spread misinformation and strange rumors, but rather a time for all nations to come together to combat this common threat,” added the department.
The State Department called on Friday the Chinese ambassador, Cui Tiankai, to denounce Beijing’s promotion of a conspiracy theory that has gained wide attention on social media.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested on Twitter last week that the “patient zero” in the global pandemic may have come from the United States.
“It could be the US army that brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make your data public! The US owes us an explanation,” tweeted Zhao, known for his provocative statements on social media.