WASHINGTON — As Trump administration officials take fresh aim at China for a list of grievances ranging from intellectual property theft to the coronavirus pandemic, Beijing fired back by saying the U.S. is "possessed by such evil" and is, therefore, to blame for deteriorating relations.
"Some in the U.S., driven by ideological bias, have been sparing no effort to paint China as a rival or even adversary, smear and attack China and encircle and contain its development," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Friday. "The U.S. is pressing the accelerator to trash China-U.S. relations, while China is putting the brakes on," she said.
"Certain U.S. politicians are so irresponsible that they will say whatever needs to be said to make China a target," she said. "The world has already seen through the U.S. playbook of fabricating narratives to deflect attention. Possessed by such evil, they are on the brink of losing their mind," she added.
Her comments were triggered by a blistering speech U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr gave Thursday, in which he accused the Chinese government of human rights abuses, espionage and economic blitzkrieg.
"The American people are more attuned than ever to the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses not only to our way of life, but to our very lives and livelihoods," Barr said, highlighting recent addresses made by Trump administration officials.
Last month, national security advisor Robert O'Brien slammed China for a laundry list of offenses before saying that "the days of American passivity and naivety regarding the People's Republic of China are over." Similarly, FBI Director Chris Wray said the Trump administration would not allow the Chinese to carry on with espionage and cyberattacks against the United States which has amounted to what he called "one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history."
The crumbling relationship between Washington and Beijing has intensified following an attempt from the world's two largest economies to mend trade relations.
U.S. officials have long complained that Chinese intellectual property theft has cost the economy billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs. They have also said that it threatens national security. Meanwhile, Beijing maintains that it does not engage in intellectual property theft.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has previously described Huawei and other Chinese state-backed businesses as "Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence," said earlier this month that the U.S. was looking at banning TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps, citing national security concerns.
The Trump administration has also squarely placed blame on China for the recent health crisis caused by the coronavirus.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed legislation to impose sanctions on China in response to its interference with Hong Kong's autonomy. He also signed an executive order ending the preferential treatment that Hong Kong has long enjoyed.
"Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China," Trump said Tuesday during a lengthy speech in the White House Rose Garden that quickly drifted away from that legislation to touch on a variety of campaign issues.
"No special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies," he said. "In addition to that, as you know, we are placing massive tariffs and have placed very large tariffs on China."
China's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Beijing will impose retaliatory sanctions against U.S. individuals and entities in response to the law that also targets banks, though the statement released through state media did not refer to the executive order.