China’s diplomatic corps is famous for its remarkably consistent ability to show a unified front it toeing the Communist Party line; however, Trump may have finally broken that.
Bloomberg reports of an extremely unusual public spat between two top Chinese diplomats:
The differences spilled into public view Monday after China’s ambassador to the U.S. reaffirmed his opposition to promoting theories that the virus that causes Covid-19 originated in an American military lab. Ambassador Cui Tiankai said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” that he stood by his Feb. 9 statement that it would be “crazy” to spread such theories, even though a foreign ministry spokesman has repeatedly floated the idea on Twitter in recent weeks.
Cui’s comments were directly contradictory to foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who has been aggressive in suggesting a US conspiracy behind the origins of the coronavirus.
Starting March 12 Zhao Lijian issued his bombshell and novel accusation on Twitter, saying “it might be the US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan”. In a series of Twitter statements he questioned: “When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”
China’s ambassador in Washington was promptly summoned and called to account by the State Department, after which the theories out of Beijing appeared to cool a bit. Most perhaps took it as Chinese officials hitting back at President Trump’s at that time controversially referring to Covid-19 as a “foreign virus”. And doubling down by later March, he’s begun repeatedly calling in the “Chinese virus”.