The Chinese government has suggested that President Donald Trump’s administration might be hiding something about its response to the coronavirus crisis, as both Washington, D.C. and Beijing trade accusations and disinformation while the pandemic continues to spread.
The Chinese foreign ministry sent a tweet on Monday suggesting there were “growing doubts over the US government’s handling of the #COVID19.”
“When did the first infection occur in the US?” the foreign ministry asked. “Is the US government hiding something? Why they opt to blame others? American people and the international community need an answer from the US government.”
The foreign ministry did not elaborate on the assertions. Newsweek has contacted the State Department to request comment on the accusations.
The Chinese Communist Party has attempted to dodge blame for the pandemic—which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan—partially by accusing Western nations, most prominently the U.S., of mishandling its spread.
Western nations have accused China of a lack of transparency over coronavirus, suggesting the CCP concealed early warning signs of the outbreak and underreported its number of infections and deaths.
Beijing has rejected such accusations, framing itself as a victim of conspiracy theories and smears. A European Union report published last week said China—among other actors—was spreading disinformation about the pandemic, prompting an angry response from the foreign ministry.
Spokesperson Geng Shuang said Monday that China “is opposed to the creation and spreading of disinformation by anyone or any organization. China is a victim of disinformation, not an initiator.”
Trump and key allies including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been especially vocal in attacking China. Both have even suggested that the virus may have escaped from a research laboratory in Wuhan, a possibility now being considered by U.S. intelligence agencies as revealed by Newsweek. As yet, there is no known evidence that the lab was the origin point for COVID-19.
Beijing has dismissed any suggestions that its response was inadequate, though early whistleblowers were silenced by local officials and—according to the Associated Press—President Xi Jinping sat on vital information for six days in January even as millions of Chinese people traveled within the country and abroad in the run-up to Lunar New Year.
China has dismissed foreign criticism as racist efforts to shift the blame for the outbreak onto China. Worldwide, there have now been more than 3 million confirmed cases and 211,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. has now become the epicenter of the outbreak, having recorded just under 1 million infections and more than 56,000 deaths. Trump has been widely criticized for bungling the federal response, spreading misleading—and potentially dangerous—medical information and clashing with governors over the supply of key equipment and stay-at-home orders.