Trump Says Chinese Spokesperson 'Speaks Stupidly,' Accuses Beijing of Spreading 'Pain and Carnage'

President Donald Trump has singled out a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson in his latest attack on Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic, branding government statements "a disgrace" and blaming the Chinese Communist Party for "pain and carnage" caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The president did not specify which spokesperson he was attacking, but on Wednesday spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticized Trump for his ultimatum to the World Health Organization (WHO), in which the president accused the United Nations body of capitulating to Chinese pressure and demanded that Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pursue "major" reforms within 30 days or lose U.S. funding.

"We think the US should focus on beating #COVID19 rather than give an ultimatum to the organization that leads global epidemic response," Zhao wrote on Twitter. "Politicizing the origin of the virus has no audience," he added, referring to international demands for an investigation into the origins and course of the pandemic.

Trump tweeted late on Wednesday that the "spokesman speaks stupidly on behalf of China, trying desperately to deflect the pain and carnage that their country spread throughout the world. Its disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe is a disgrace."

The president added: "It all comes from the top. They could have easily stopped the plague, but they didn't!"

China's Foreign Ministry spokespeople have been at the forefront of Beijing's response to the coronavirus pandemic and—more recently—defending against U.S. attacks. The spokespeople have also aired conspiracy theories about the pandemic and been pivotal in trying to absolve Beijing of blame.

On Wednesday, Zhao also retweeted comments from fellow Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying criticizing the U.S. response to the pandemic. "US non-stop disinformation may confuse and mislead some for a while. But in the end facts speak for themselves," Hua wrote.

In another tweet, Hua said: "'Follow me and you live, defy me and you die.' Is this the American style of science and democracy? But history has proven that only by following the trend of the times can one develop and prosper."

Trump initially praised China's response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and expressed confidence—without evidence—that the virus would soon disappear. Trump also singled out President Xi Jinping for praise.

But the president and key administration officials have since pivoted to blaming Beijing for the pandemic. Chinese officials are accused of concealing vital information about the outbreak while pressuring the WHO to downplay the severity of the crisis.

China is also accused of driving a disinformation campaign to dodge blame while maligning the response of foreign nations, and underreporting its number of infections and deaths.

Chinese officials—including Xi—are resisting calls for an international probe into the origins of the virus. The dominant theory is that the disease emerged at a wildlife market in Wuhan, jumping from bats to humans via an intermediary animal like a pangolin.

But Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have alleged that the virus actually escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, mainland China's first biosafety level 4 laboratory. Neither has provided evidence to support the assertion, which Beijing has angrily rejected.

Donald Trump, China, spokesperson, coronavirus, Zhao Lijian
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, on May 20, 2020, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty