China on Tuesday responded angrily to President Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly, in which he blamed the communist country for the coronavirus pandemic -- with Beijing accusing Trump of spreading a “political virus.”
"China firmly rejects and opposes the groundless accusations made by the United States against China during the General Debate on 22 September,” Ambassador Zhang Jun said in a lengthy statement.
“When the international community is going all out to fight COVID-19, the United States is spreading a political virus,” he said, before accusing the U.S. of provoking a “confrontation” and weakening the U.N.
“The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” Trump told the U.N.
“The Chinese government, and the World Health Organization -- which is virtually controlled by China -- falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” he said. “Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease.”
Trump began the process of pulling the U.S. out of the World Health Organization earlier this year after the administration said the organization was too close with China. The U.S. has also called on the international community to investigate the outbreak of the virus.
The Chinese ambassador, however, described China’s response as “open” and “transparent.”
“China’s important contribution to the global fight against the pandemic is highly recognized and commended by the international community, a fact that no one can deny,” he said.
Trump had also attacked China for its environmental record, accusing it of dumping tons of plastic into the ocean and overfishing.
“Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment,” he said. “They only want to punish America. And I will not stand for it.
China shot back, highlighting a number of policies from the U.S., including its withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement: “It is clear who willfully disregards the global environment and the health of people around the world,” the statement said.
Relations between Beijing and Washington have declined in recent months, not only because of the coronavirus but also over China’s human rights violations in Hong Kong and against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, to which the U.S. has responded with sanctions.
Trump recently promised to “decouple” the U.S. from China, while threatening to block companies who outsource jobs to China from receiving federal contracts, and vowing to bring manufacturing jobs and supply chains back to the United States if reelected in November.
“We will make America into the manufacturing superpower of the world and will end our reliance on China once and for all,” he added. “Whether it’s decoupling, or putting in massive tariffs like I’ve been doing already, we will end our reliance on China, because we can’t rely on China.”
Fox News' Ben Evansky and Lucas Manfredi contributed to this report.