Donald Trump has referred to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus”, escalating a deepening US-China diplomatic spat over the outbreak.
Washington| President Donald Trump for the first time on his Twitter feed used the phrase “the Chinese Virus,” stepping up the dispute between the world’s two biggest economies as each tries to turn blame for a deadly pandemic.
Trump, who has previously called the disease a “foreign virus,” tweeted on Tuesday: “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus.” Trump has previously retweeted a supporter who called it a “China virus.”
“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus,” the US president tweeted Monday night.
The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2020
Trump’s allies had previously referred to the pandemic as the “Chinese coronavirus,” but the tweet marks the first time the president said it himself.
Critics slammed the move, calling it racist and potentially inciting a backlash against the Asian-American community.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Trump should take care of his own matters first. “Some US politicians have tried to stigmatise China … which China strongly condemns,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday. “We urge the US to stop this despicable practice. We are very angry and strongly oppose it [the tweet].”
The World Health Organization has advised against terms that link the virus to China or the city of Wuhan, where it was first detected, in order to avoid discrimination or stigmatisation.
The comment comes as Beijing and Washington appeared to be locked in a game of shifting blame. Last week, outspoken official Zhao Lijian from China’s ministry of foreign affairs accused the US military of bringing the virus to Wuhan. The US summoned Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai over the comment and issued a “stern” warning to Cui.
On Monday, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, issued “strong US objections” in a phone call with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi. According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Yang also issued “strong objections” to attempts by the US to “slander and smear” China’s efforts in combatting the virus.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, in tweets last week in both Mandarin and English, suggested that “patient zero” in the global pandemic may have come from the United States — not the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan.
“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.
Scientists suspect that the virus first came to humans at a meat market in Wuhan that butchered exotic animals.