U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus praised Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai on Tuesday for dismissing claims by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman that the U.S. Army may have been responsible for the coronavirus.
“We welcome Ambassador Cui’s comments calling the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement a ‘crazy thing’ that blamed the U.S. Army for the #coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. Saving lives is more important than saving face,” said Ortagus.
Cui responded to the Foreign Ministry claim on the CBS show “Face the Nation” on Sunday: “There are people who are saying that these viruses are coming from some military lab, not of China, maybe in the United States.” He added: “How—how can we believe all these crazy things?”
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The climb-down happened after President Trump publicly, and privately with high-level Chinese leaders, chastised Chinese officials for spreading the absurd rumor in an effort to deflect attention away from the Chinese origin of the virus.
The initial insinuation was by Zhao Lijian of the Chinese Foreign Ministry: “When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals?” He said it “might be [the] US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan… Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation.”
The Chinese are not idiots. Thus to go this far out on a limb and make an insinuation they know is patently ridiculous shows how desperate they are to turn around the narrative on this issue not only with foreign nations, but with their own people as well.
Fallout from the coronavirus could cause global consumers to become wary of Chinese products. Already there are several bills in front of Congress that would mandate exclusive U.S. production of certain drugs, medicines, and other equipment. Other nations could follow the U.S. lead, as their virus numbers grow in coming days.