The Chinese government refrains from the conspiracy theory that the new coronavirus was developed by the American military and introduced to Wuhan during the World Military Games. By Sunday, a spokesman for the State Department, Zhao Lijian, had been instrumental in spreading this theory among the Chinese. He had repeatedly posted references to it on Twitter, which were distributed by Chinese ambassadors in numerous countries. But then the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, sharply distanced himself from it without naming Zhao by name.
In an interview, he called such conspiracy theories “crazy things”. It is “very harmful” if journalists and diplomats speculate on the origin of the virus instead of leaving it to the scientists to clarify. Cui was then asked whether he or Zhao spoke for the Chinese government. His answer: “I am China’s representative in the United States.” Since then, the much younger Zhao has been keeping his feet still.
There can be no question of relaxation
Zhao is known for his aggressive Twitter diplomacy. The fact that he was recently promoted to a spokesman for the ministry is an indication that an offensive appearance on the international stage in the Chinese power apparatus has now promoted his career. With his tirades, Zhao had responded to statements made by American politicians, who in turn propagated the conspiracy theory that the virus had been developed in a Chinese laboratory for bio-warfare agents.
The rhetorical tensions between Beijing and Washington had intensified when Donald Trump started to call the pathogen the China virus. The fact that the American President has now withdrawn from this has been noted with satisfaction in China. However, there can be no talk of relaxation in relation to America. A week ago, China announced the expulsion of all American correspondents from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Only citizens of other countries are allowed to work for the newspapers in China.