“Some US officials just want to shift the blame”, China’s foreign ministry said Thursday, in response to reports that US intelligence informed the White House last week of Beijing’s alleged efforts to understate coronavirus infections and fatalities.
Predictably, Beijing dispatched Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman with a flair for the dramatic, to handle the accusations.
“Actually we don’t want to fall into an argument with them, but faced with such repeated moral slander, I feel compelled to take some time and clarify the truth again”, she snapped, adding that “China has been open and transparent”.
“Actually”, Hua is always ready to “fall into an argument” with anybody who takes it upon themselves to “slander” her country. Over the course of the trade war, and especially during the Hong Kong protests, Hua unleashed a torrent of hyperbolic vitriol aimed at the US during daily briefings.
“Can anyone tell us what the US has done in the following two months?”, she asked on Thursday, referencing what Beijing is apparently prepared to characterize as a lackluster response to the worsening pandemic, after Donald Trump initially banned travelers from China two months ago.
Trump on Wednesday suggested he had received no such briefing on underreporting but did quip that “[China’s] numbers seem a little bit on the light side”.
“I’m being nice when I say that”, he added, for emphasis. “As to whether or not their numbers are accurate… I’m not an accountant from China”.
The US is closing in on a quarter million cases. New York alone has more infections than all but two other countries, globally.
Mike Pence – a vocal and sometimes abrasive critic of Chinese policies – told CNN that Beijing knew about the virus “long before” the world got wind of the situation in December.
“The reality is that China’s been more transparent with respect to the coronavirus than certainly they were for other infectious diseases over the last 15 years”, the vice president mused. “But what appears evident now is long before the world learned in December, China was dealing with this, maybe as much as a month earlier than that.”
US lawmakers have also questioned the veracity of China’s reporting, going so far as to flatly say that officials in Beijing are surely lying and will continue to do so in order to ensure political stability.
For her part, Hua ramped up the rhetoric once she got warmed up. “These comments by those US politicians are just shameless and morally repulsive, and these slanders, smears and blame games cannot make up for the lost time, but will only cost more lost time and lives”, she sneered.
That much, at least, is true.