On Tuesday, the Chinese government announced that it would be expelling journalists from major news outlets, including The New York Times, in a response to the Trump administration’s decision to limit the number of Chinese citizens working in the United States for five propaganda outlets.
And last week, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, shared the conspiracy theory that the United States was behind the virus. “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” he said on Twitter. “Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”
The darker turn in U.S.-China relations has spilled out into public spats and private mistrust. While both countries have said that the trade deal they signed in January remains on track, American officials have blamed China for mishandling the coronavirus epidemic, as well as for withholding exports of face masks and other protective medical equipment.
And within the Trump administration, some officials who are China hawks have privately discussed a theory that the virus emerged not from a food market in Wuhan, as many news media reports have said, but from a nearby Chinese government laboratory, where virologists were carrying out research.
That theory has been discussed on Fox News by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, an ally of Mr. Trump’s.
Charlie Woo, the chief executive of Megatoys and the public policy committee chairman of the Committee of 100, an organization of prominent Chinese-Americans, said the administration’s language was dividing the public during a national emergency.
“This crisis requires science, facts and clear language, not fear-mongering, finger-pointing and xenophobia by our public servants,” Mr. Woo said in a statement. “We face a global pandemic that calls for a truly global, unified response. Attempts to ascribe the virus to one culture, ethnicity or country can only hinder this effort, alienating people who could instead collaborate and support one another.”