China says Trump trying to 'shift blame' for coronavirus pandemic

US President Donald Trump charged that the world is "paying a big price" for China's lack of transparency on the outbreak when it emerged in the central city of Wuhan late 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing on Friday (March 20) accused United States President Donald Trump of trying to "shift the blame" for the global coronavirus pandemic in an escalating row between the two powers.

Mr Trump charged on Thursday that the world is "paying a big price" for China's lack of transparency on the outbreak when it emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

China has been criticised for suppressing information and punishing whistle-blowers during the early stages of the contagion, which an AFP tally shows has now killed nearly 10,000 people with more than 232,000 cases worldwide.

"Some people on the US side are trying to stigmatise China's fight against the epidemic, and shift the blame onto China," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

"This approach ignores the great sacrifice made by the Chinese people to safeguard the health and safety of humankind, and slanders China's major contribution to global public health."

Mr Geng said China had shared data with the US throughout the health crisis.

The exchange marked an escalation in the bitter war of words between China and the US over the past week.

China's announcement this week of mass expulsions of American journalists sparked a media freedom row that coincided with Mr Trump's ramped up usage of the term "Chinese virus", which he claimed was in response to Chinese misinformation suggesting that the virus originated in the US.

In recent days, Chinese state media has been heavily critical of Mr Trump.

The nationalistic Global Times claimed in several op-eds that his rhetoric is fanning the flames of global xenophobia and anti-Chinese sentiment.

Mr Trump has defended his description of the virus, saying it was "not racist at all".

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