China - United States

US-China war of words over Covid-19 escalates tensions over Taiwan

High school students enter a school in Wuhan, capital city of China's Hubei Province, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December 2019.
High school students enter a school in Wuhan, capital city of China's Hubei Province, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December 2019. © AFP

Tension between China and the United States heightens over the responsibility for Covid-19 and is spilling over to Taiwan as well as other sensitive issues.


United States President Donald Trump lashed out at China accusing the country of “mass worldwide killing” because of its “incompetence… and nothing else” in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We present facts and talk sense. The Chinese government has been acting with openness, transparency and responsibility in every step of the fight against COVID-19,” was the response of Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Thursday 21 May.

Pompeo accuses China

Trump’s tweet attack came after Zhao reacted to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo long list of complaints against China. On Wednesday 20 May, Pompeo opened a press conference focusing on what he calls “the challenges presented by the Chinese Communist Party”.

“First, basic facts. China’s been ruled by a brutal, authoritarian regime,” said Pompeo.

He added that “Beijing is ideologically and politically hostile to free nations”.

Referring to China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, Pompeo declared that the Chinese Communist Party “chose to destroy live virus samples instead of sharing them or asking us to help secure them”.

Regarding an inquiry into the origins of the virus, Pompeo said that China denied “investigators access to relevant facilities”.

He also listed a series of unlawful acts China allegedly perpetrated against Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia.

He also accused Beijing of pressuring the World Health Organization’s director-general into excluding Taiwan from this week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva. While underlining “Dr. Tedros’s unusually close ties to Beijing ».

Pompeo went on to congratulate Taiwan’s “President Tsai on her inauguration”, saying that “the democratic process in Taiwan has matured into a model for the world”.

Beijing reacts

Zhao called Pompeo a liar and said, “he really is second to none at being an extremely irresponsible politician”.

“Mr. Pompeo has always been attacking our political system,” Zhao told reporters. “His comments are entirely baseless and nonsensical.”

Over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Zhao asked why the US government failed to take strong containment measures during the long period from January to March.

“Why did it for a long time argue against the practice of wearing masks?” Zhao asked.

Zhao highlighted how the US praised China over its response to the outbreak.

“On 25 January, President Trump tweeted that China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus,” Zhao declared. “On March 13, President Trump told journalists that the data China shared was helpful for the US efforts against the epidemic.”

On the issues related to Taiwan, Zhao stressed that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory” and said, “Pompeo should stop poking his nose into China's internal affairs, otherwise his attempts will be countered”.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning