China claims HHS Secretary Azar turned his back on Americans dying from coronavirus

U.S.-China tensions continue to escalate following Azar’s trip to Taiwan

China says the U.S. has turned its back on the American people during the coronavirus, instead choosing “political posturing,” just one day after U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar praised Taiwan’s coronavirus response.

China has condemned any official U.S.-Taiwan interaction, urging the U.S. to adhere to the one-China policy the U.S. previously recognized.

The HHS secretary’s trip to the island located off the shores of mainland China was intended to “enhance U.S.-Taiwan cooperation to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Azar said last week – though it was a move the Trump administration knew would cause increased tensions between the U.S. and China.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian pointed to the more than 5.1 million U.S. coronavirus cases and over 165,000 American deaths in a press conference Wednesday, before saying that Azar wanted to use China as a “scapegoat” to “cover up for their [the U.S.’s] competence.”

“In the face of such a grave situation, the principal health official, instead of manning the front-line and devoting himself entirely to bringing the virus under control, has walked out on the millions of people suffering at home, all for a political posturing faraway in Taiwan,” Zhao said Wednesday.  “I wonder if this official knew that during his three-day visit, more than 150,000 new cases were confirmed in the U.S. and over 2,000 lives lost.”

“Their ridiculous stunts this time just make us more convinced that for them, American people's lives are nothing compared with political gain,” he added.

U.S.-China relations started to disintegrate following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China.

Trump, who originally praised China at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, changed his tune as cases started to spike in the U.S. in March.

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The U.S. has since accused China of trying to cover up the coronavirus after reports immerged of Dr. Li Wenliang’s disappearance, following his discovery of the coronavirus in Wuhan.

And Trump started referring to the coronavirus as the Chinese-virus in March, placing blame for the global pandemic squarely on China.

The U.S. further withdrew from the World Health Organization (WHO) in early July after threatening to do so in May, citing pro-China tendencies and bias. The WHO has rejected these accusations.

“The Chinese Communist Party had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus. But they chose not to, and the costs of that choice mount higher every day,” Azar said from Taipei, the capitol of Taiwan, Tuesday.

Azar said that China failed to live up to the “binding obligations” of informing the international community right when the virus broke in China – “betraying” the International Health Regulations communal commitment.

“I believe it is no exaggeration to say that if this virus had emerged in a place like Taiwan or the United States, it might have been snuffed out easily: rapidly reported to public health authorities, who would have shared what they knew with health professionals and with the general public,” Azar said.

“Instead, Beijing appears to have resisted information sharing, muzzling doctors who spoke out and hobbling the world’s ability to respond.”

China has reported 84,737 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 4,634 deaths since the reported outbreak in December, though some have suspected the virus could have started earlier in November. But China is now reporting new daily cases in the single digits as of this week.

Health officials believe China successfully defeated the coronavirus through mask mandates, indoor dining requirements and strict quarantine measures at the onslaught of the outbreak.

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The United States has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.

Trump has faced months of criticism for not taking the virus seriously enough as he has sent mixed signals surrounding the importance of mask wearing, as well as pushing for schools and businesses to reopen despite warnings from health officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.