But while there is plenty of opprobrium to go around in areas where the virus is now rapidly spreading — particularly over why precautions were not put in place earlier, when health experts were warning the outbreak would not remain contained in Asia — some top officials are pointing the finger further afield.
Millions of people across China shouldered immense sacrifices to contain the virus once the outbreak began, efforts that have been praised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others, and there is increasing bitterness that the country is still bearing the brunt of the blame from some quarters.
Chinese officials have capitalized on this growing resentment by boosting their own unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus’ origin.
On Twitter, Zhao claimed — without evidence — that “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan” and demanded the US “Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao also retweeted another Twitter user claiming baselessly that Redfield’s statement “supports the claims made by Japanese scientists that the virus originated from the US but was covered up.”
Zhao and his Foreign Ministry colleagues have refused to provide evidence for their claims, but they don’t need to in order to achieve their goal. Creating confusion or disagreement over the origin of the virus could help push the blame away from China for its initial handling of the outbreak, just as Trump and other US officials’ blaming of China helps move the conversation away from their own, highly criticized, response.
But just as China should be responding to the very real complaints of its own citizens about how the outbreak was handled, and whether it could have been contained at an earlier stage had officials acted differently, so too should the US and other countries be facing head on their own alleged failings to prevent the virus reaching pandemic levels.
Trump has long taken an aggressive stance on China on the economic front, pushing the country on trade and intellectual property, and emphasizing where the coronavirus outbreak first began plays into an established us vs. them narrative. It may also help alleviate some of the backlash Trump will inevitably suffer should there be an economic downturn as a result of the pandemic.
But while Trump’s base may yet respond positively to blaming China, there is another subsection of Americans who could face very real risks because of it.
“COVID19 is now an American virus, an Italian virus, a Spanish virus,” Lieu added. “We all are impacted & we all need to work together.”