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China says it’s on ‘brink of Cold War’ with US over coronavirus

President Donald J. Trump joins Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, at the start of their bilateral meeting Saturday, June 29, 2019, at the G20 Japan Summit in Osaka, Japan. ( Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
May 25, 2020

Officials in China are now saying that relations with the U.S. are worsening to a Cold War-like point over the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday that Washington had been infected by a “political virus” for placing blame for the global coronavirus pandemic on China, AFP reported. He described the tension between the two countries as akin to the “Cold War,” a decades-long era of geopolitical tension between Russia and the U.S., punctuated by arms races and political and military power competition.

“It has come to our attention that some political forces in the US are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War,” Wang told reporters at the close of China’s annual week-long parliamentary session.

He offered his assessment amid continuing criticism from President Donald Trump, and other U.S. politicians, that China and the World Health Organization (WHO) withheld information about COVID-19 when the outbreak first began. Last week Trump shared a four-page letter, describing various alleged failures by the WHO to investigate the virus outbreak and instead publish inaccurate claims about the outbreak, based on Chinese misinformation.

Trump has also criticized China’s silencing whistleblowers who attempted to raise alarm about the disease outbreak. He has also speculated as the origin of the virus, potentially from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan. U.S. intelligence agencies have admitted they are investigating that outbreak theory.

Wang described the criticism of China as an effort by U.S. politicians to “fabricate rumours”and “stigmatise China.”

While indications of a lab outbreak are still being investigated, the widely held belief is that the virus originated from live animal markets in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Chinese officials have previously promoted unfounded conspiracy theories of their own, that the U.S. Army brought the virus to Wuhan.

Wang did go on to suggest an investigation into the origin of the virus could eventually be conducted, but offered few details about when the investigation may be allowed.

“China is open to working with the international scientific community to look into the source of the virus,” he said. “At the same time, we believe that this should be professional, fair and constructive.”

Cases of COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, but have since spread to more than 180 additional countries and infected more than five million people, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus case tracking map. More than 345,000 people have died from coronavirus related illnesses worldwide since the outbreak began at the end of 2019. The U.S. has confirmed the highest number of coronavirus cases of any country, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and nearly 100,000 virus-related deaths thus far.

Various U.S. lawmakers have proposed legislation to hold China liable for the damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak, including lowering diplomatic exemptions to allow U.S. citizens to sue China for losses caused by the virus outbreak.