The State Department hauled in the Chinese ambassador to the United States on Friday to confront him over communist China's increased effort to blame America for the global coronavirus outbreak.
Diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China increased significantly this week after top Chinese propagandist Zhao Lijian, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, publicly shifted blame for coronavirus onto America, claiming it "might be the US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan."
According to Reuters, David Stillwell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, summoned Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S., and delivered a very "stern representation," which resulted in the Chinese delegation becoming "very defensive."
CBS News confirmed the development:
NEW : CBS News has confirmed that the State Department hauled in the Chinese ambassador for claims the foreign mini… https://t.co/zrKrXLi8e4— Christina Ruffini (@Christina Ruffini)1584125415.0
The Chinese ambassador met with the deputy sec for East Asia David Stilwell, who sources say “gave a very stern rep… https://t.co/n2WMttkwfP— Christina Ruffini (@Christina Ruffini)1584125416.0
A State Department official who spoke with Reuters said China wants to deflect criticism for "starting a global pandemic and not telling the world" — but the U.S. is putting China "on notice."
"Spreading conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous. We wanted to put the government on notice we won't tolerate it for the good of the Chinese people and the world," the official said.
Despite being responsible for the coronavirus pandemic, China has been working overtime to remake its image as the world's responsible global superpower, the New York Times reported in February.
From the Times:
The Chinese government silenced whistle-blowers, withheld crucial information and played down the threat posed by the new coronavirus, allowing an epidemic that has killed thousands to take hold across the country. Now the ruling Communist Party, facing a storm of anger from the Chinese public over its missteps, is trying to rehabilitate its image by rebranding itself as the unequivocal leader in the global fight against the virus.
Mr. Xi, China's most influential leader since Mao, has made it a priority to expand the country's economic and military might around the world and to demonstrate that China can play the role of responsible superpower.
The coronavirus outbreak has undermined those global ambitions, and the propaganda push suggests the party might be worried about lasting damage. And as the virus spreads to 56 countries and wreaks havoc on global markets, experts say the campaign could revive concerns about China's secretive approach to managing the crisis.
The blame-shifting will likely backfire on China, resulting in demands to give the international community an honest accounting of where coronavirus originated and how the disease spread so quickly.