Trump angers Beijing with 'Chinese virus' tweet

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US President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the press briefing room at the White House, 16 March 2020Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
President Trump speaks about the coronavirus at a White House briefing

China has reacted angrily after US President Donald Trump referred to the coronavirus as “Chinese”.

A foreign ministry spokesman warned the US should “take care of its own business” before stigmatising China.

The first cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

However, last week a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman shared a conspiracy theory, alleging the US Army had brought it to the region.

The unfounded accusation led US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to demand China stop spreading “disinformation” as it tried “to shift blame” for the outbreak.

So far, more than 170,000 cases have been recorded worldwide, with more than 80,000 in China.

However, on Tuesday, Beijing said it had recorded just one new case caught in China, with all other new cases brought into the country.

Media caption,

Students in Guizhou province, south-west China, are returning to school after more than a month off

What did Donald Trump say?

The US president sent a tweet on Monday describing the coronavirus - which causes the disease Covid-19 - as the “Chinese virus”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against linking the virus to any particular area or group, due to the risk of stigmatisation.

However, a number of US administration officials have referred to it as the Chinese virus. Meanwhile, Mr Pompeo has repeatedly referred to the “Wuhan virus”.

What was the reaction?

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said the tweet amounted to “stigmatisation of China”.

"We urge the US to correct its mistake and stop its groundless accusations against China,” he added.

China’s official news agency, Xinhua, said Mr Trump’s language was “racist and xenophobic” and revealed “politicians' irresponsibility and incompetence”, risking increasing fears over the virus.

There was also criticism from within the US, with New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio saying the phrase risked “fuelling more bigotry” against Asian-Americans.

What are China-US relations like now?

They have a strained relationship.

President Trump has long accused China of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft while, in China, there is a perception that the US is trying to curb its rise as a global economic power.

The two have been engaged in a bitter trade war, which saw the US and China impose hundreds of billions of dollars of tit-for-tat tariffs.

That appeared to be easing earlier this year as the virus outbreak took hold, with a partial resolution reached in January.