Hu Xijin, a top Chinese propagandist, declared recently that China should prepare for a nuclear showdown with the United States after President Joe Biden affirmed continued investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What did Biden say?
Once decried as a conspiracy theory — despite a lack of evidence disproving the possibility — the Wuhan lab leak theory as the origin of the pandemic has gained significant footing in recent weeks, with high-profile scientists saying the possibility demands increased investigation.
Biden responded to growing confidence in the theory last week by calling on American intelligence officials to conduct more investigation into the pandemic's origin, including the possibility that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
"The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence," Biden said in a statement.
What did Hu say?
The Chinese propagandist, who edits the Beijing-controlled Global Times newspaper, responded to Biden's statement by saying China must prepare for a "high-intensity showdown" after citing China's nuclear armament.
According to Australia's Daily Telegraph, Hu's message was published to Sena Wiebo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.
The message, translated by Chinese human rights activist Jennifer Zeng, read, in part:
Given the intensifying US strategic containment of China, I would like to remind once again that we have many urgent tasks, but one of the most important is to keep rapidly increasing the number of nuclear warheads and strategic missiles like the Dongfeng 41 with extremely long-range and high survival capabilities. This is the cornerstone of China's strategic resilience against the United States.
We must be prepared for a high-intensity showdown between the US and China, at which point a large number of DF-41 and JL-2 and JL-3 will be the backbone of our strategic will. Our nuclear missiles must be so numerous that the US elite will tremble at the thought of military confrontation with China at that time.
The comments are particularly eyebrow-raising because Hu claims to speak for government officials who cannot speak publicly.
In fact, Hu explained in 2016 that he pals around with Chinese government officials and admitted, "They can't speak willfully, but I can," a suggestion that he broadcasts the sentiments of communist officials.
Hu similarly told CNN in 2019 that his newspaper and opinions reflect the views of the Chinese people.
"We say things out loud," Hu said. "You could call us radical or nationalistic, but we reflect true sentiments of Chinese society. You could learn the truth better through us."
China has vehemently denied that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan bio lab.
Beijing has claimed the pandemic originated in a wet market in Wuhan where the virus jumped from an infected animal to humans.
The communist government has also suggested the pandemic originated in America, their direct response to former President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo having claimed publicly that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan lab. Beijing has interpreted all suggestions that COVID-19 did not emerge naturally as acts of aggression.