US President Donald Trump is refusing to stop using the name ‘Chinese virus’, despite or perhaps in spite of protests from Beijing and some US media outlets claiming that doing so is inappropriate or even racist.
Asked about his use of the term during a White House press conference on Tuesday, the US president said he will continue calling Covid-19 a “Chinese virus” because it came from China, and he did not appreciate attempts by Beijing to argue otherwise.
“China was putting out information, which was false, that our military gave this to them. That was false,” Trump said. “And rather than having an argument, I said I have to call it where it came from: it did come from China. So I think it is a very accurate term.”
“I didn’t appreciate China saying our military gave it to them. Our military did not give it to anybody.“
President Trump: “China was putting out information which was false… I have to call it where it came from: it did come from China. I think it is a very accurate term… I didn’t appreciate China saying our military gave it to them.” pic.twitter.com/flXo8p6qfc
— Nathan Brand (@NathanBrandWA) March 17, 2020
This was apparently a reference to Zhao Lijian, a newly minted spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who made the controversial claim last week that the virus – which was first registered in the city of Wuhan in December 2019 – could have been brought there by the US military team during the Military World Games the month prior.
Fellow Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang sidestepped questions about Zhao’s comments at the time, neither confirming nor denying if they represented Beijing’s official position on the matter.
On Tuesday, however, Geng said his government was “strongly indignant” over Trump’s use of “Chinese virus,” which he called “a kind of stigmatization,” and demanded that Washington “immediately stop its unjustified accusations against China.”
The day before that, China’s Xinhua News Agency tweeted that “Racism is not the right tool to cover your own incompetence.” While they did not tag anyone in particular, it was clear who it was addressed to.
Beijing insists that the exact origin of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus has never been conclusively established. Various – and conflicting – theories have pointed to bats sold as a delicacy at the Wuhan food market, or pangolins. There have also been wild conspiracy theories, such as that the Chinese government created the virus in one of its Wuhan bioresearch laboratories, or that it was a genetically tailored US bioweapon unleashed on China that went out of control.