China has been criticized at home and abroad over its handling of the virus, especially during the initial outbreak. Pushing back such criticism with increasingly fierce rhetoric, Beijing says it is merely "responding" to false accusations, particularly from the US. In March, as the pandemic raged across the globe, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian publicly promoted an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus might have been brought to China by the US military. A few days later, US President Donald Trump called the coronavirus the "Chinese virus," pinning the blame on China as the outbreak began to take hold in major American cities.
Trump dropped the term a week later -- but the finger pointing did not stop there.