State Department summons Chinese ambassador over 'blatant' disinformation campaign on coronavirus

The State Department on Friday summoned the Chinese ambassador after a spokesperson with China’s foreign ministry suggested the U.S. military might have brought coronavirus to Wuhan -- where the outbreak first emerged last year.

A senior State official told Fox News that Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell called in Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai over China’s “blatant, global” disinformation campaign on the novel coronavirus.

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It's unclear whether other statements might have been discussed at the meeting. But it comes after foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian wrote on Twitter: “When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals?”

Zhao went on to suggest that it “might be [the] US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan."

“Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation,” he wrote.

Days earlier, China’s ambassador to South Africa also downplayed his country’s role in the pandemic.

“Although the epidemic first broke out in China, it did not necessarily mean that the virus originated from China, let alone 'made in China,'" he tweeted.

The remarks come as part of a  massive public relations campaign from the Chinese to convince the world that the United States bears the blame for the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed roughly 5,000 lives around the globe.

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The Chinese government has already published a book in English -- with translations in the works in French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic -- touting its handling of the deadly disease.

"A Battle Against Epidemic: China Combatting COVID-19 in 2020" is a mishmash of glowing state media reports on the accomplishments of President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party and the dominance of the Chinese system in fighting the crisis.

Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and Bradford Betz contributed to this report.