US President Donald Trump (File Photo: AFP)
Recent tweets sent by US President Donald Trump, in which he criticized a Chinese government spokesperson and accused China of spreading disinformation and propaganda, signal more aggressive attacks against China, experts said, while condemning him for worsening the already strained China-US ties and calling for stronger countermeasures with regard to possible punitive measures from the US against Chinese diplomats.
On Wednesday, Trump posted four tweets, one of which called an unnamed figure in China a "wacko" and accused the person of "blaming everyone but China for the virus." The other three said that the "spokesman speaks stupidly on behalf of China, trying desperately to deflect the pain and carnage that their country spread throughout the world."
Trump also accused China of launching a disinformation and propaganda attack on the US and Europe.
Trump's tweets are a blunt threat to Chinese diplomats, experts said, warning of possible sanctions from the US against Chinese officials.
"Trump's tweets, in both the words he picked and the way he wrote them, are disgraceful," Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Thursday. As president of the US, Trump used aggressive words in attacking Chinese spokespersons, and regardless of who he was referring to, a spokesperson is usually supposed to represent the government.
Although Trump did not reveal the name of the Chinese spokesperson, he may have been referring to Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who has 623,200 followers on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Zhao tweeted that the international community has disagreed with the US moves to distort the truth, blame others and destroy international anti-virus joint efforts, as he mentioned a letter Trump sent to Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in which Trump threatened to quit the WHO.
"We have debunked the fallacies in the letter many times… [as to] how credible the letter is, the international community has reached a conclusion." The US should focus on fighting the virus, not sending ultimatums to the leader of an international organization, he added.
Zhao was also the first Chinese diplomat to ask the US for an explanation on the virus' origins after reports revealed in March that coronavirus infections may have appeared in the US at the end of 2019. Ever since then, Zhao has come under continued and furious attacks from US politicians and media.
"More voices from China have been heard by the international community, especially on overseas social platforms. For example, more Chinese diplomats and media have opened Twitter accounts, which are talking directly to Americans," Sun Chenghao, an assistant research fellow with the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.
More people in the US are learning the other side of the story about China, which is true and opposite to the US government's narrative. This is what US politicians cannot tolerate, leading to more attacks from them.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian is making remarks at a press briefing on Feb. 24. (Photo: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Experts said that these true voices from China are like blunt notices and reminded the international community and Americans that "Trump wears no clothes and makes up lies to decorate himself," which deeply hurt Trump's administration.
In addition to Zhao, another Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, who has gained 443,600 followers since she debuted on Twitter in October 2019, posted five tweets on Wednesday, making a comparison between the infection numbers in China and the US since the epidemic outbreak.
"US had 7,087 cases as China reported 0 new domestic cases on Mar. 19. Now US has 1,570,583 cases & 93,533 deaths. Who on earth should be accountable?" she tweeted.
She added, "'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."
Sun noted that Trump's tweets on Wednesday were a more aggressive version of his recent farcical comments. The reasons behind these tweets are Trump's incompetence in stopping the coronavirus spreading to more US non-urban areas, where there may not be enough medical resources to deal with increasing infections, Sun said, adding that the epidemic may affect his support rate in these swing states.
Trump criticized China of using "disinformation and propaganda" to attack the US and EU, but the fact is he himself and some officials from his administration, especially Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have spread the largest amount of disinformation to mislead Americans and smear China, experts said.
"How much disinformation has Trump himself spread to the public? From using disinfectant to the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, he has spread more disinformation on social media platforms," Xin noted.
As for Pompeo, Sun said that he has never done what a top diplomat should do, but only plays the role of Trump's loyal propaganda and election cheerleader.
"He is too busy helping Trump shift the blame to China, and attack and smear China," Sun said.
Pompeo mentioned China 14 times during his 20-minute press conference on Wednesday, not only accusing China of hiding information about the coronavirus but also interfering with China's domestic affairs in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
"Trump's moves showed that he is trying to blame the US' domestic failure in coping with the epidemic on China, which is an important factor in the upcoming election. His attacks on China will only become more intense," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.
Experts said that with the deterioration of China-US ties and more unhinged US attacks on China, the US government may ask US social media platforms to suspend diplomats' and media outlets' accounts.
If the Trump administration takes such measures, the whole world will once again see clearly that the so-called freedom of press and speech that the US boasts about is a total lie and only serves political purposes. Any voices that differ from those held by US politicians may be suppressed by the US, experts said.
Some are worried that the US may also use the Magnitsky Act to impose sanctions against Chinese officials. Three Republicans have called for the use of Magnitsky Act sanctions against Chinese officials over the country's coronavirus response, and Zhao's name was on the list, Fox News reported.
Experts said that China should take similar measures based on the principle of reciprocity, putting US officials on a punitive list, banning related US officials and politicians from entering China and restricting their business with China.
Overseas netizens have also swarmed Trump's tweets since Wednesday, leaving comments ridiculing the president and calling him the "wacko" in the US, who is best at blaming others for his mistakes.
"There is a wacko in the US who made numerous remarks blaming everybody other than himself for the virus which has now killed hundreds of thousands of people in the US. Please explain to this dope that it was the incompetence of the US and the Trump administration, nothing else, that did this mass killing in the US!" one netizen wrote in response to Trump's tweet on Wednesday.