The Chinese foreign ministry questioned the Trump administration’s coronavirus response on Monday, mimicking the tone of international criticism of the Communist Chinese Party’s handling of the pandemic, as a report circulates about Beijing pressuring its diplomats to ramp up their defense of the Communist Party abroad.

China’s most experienced diplomats have been pushing back at their host countries, in an attempt to beat back blame for the spread of COVID-19 as Chinese President Xi Jinping urged them to display their “fighting spirit” to protect the country’s global image, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry raised speculation that the US bungled its response to the pandemic and needs to answer to nations around the world as it claimed China stands strongly against spreading disinformation.

“Growing doubts over the US government’s handling of the #COVID19, e.g. When did the first infection occur in the US? Is the US government hiding something? Why they opt to blame others? American people and the international community need an answer from the US government,” the post from the foreign ministry said.

“China always stands against disinformation campaign. We are victim rather than producer of disinformation. Peddling disinformation and recrimination are by no means prescription for international anti-pandemic cooperation and should be rejected by all.”

Donald Trump arrives at a daily coronavirus task force briefing.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The change in statecraft comes as President Trump and a number of world leaders have rebuked Beijing for not accurately reporting the number of coronavirus cases and using its influence with the World Health Organization to downplay the spread of the coronavirus in the early days after the first case was recorded in the city of Wuhan in December.

Communist Chinese diplomatic missions in Australia and Canada accused local lawmakers of parroting US propaganda after they called for China to pay compensation for the spread of the virus.

Some China experts say the high-profile fight could backfire.

“The aggressive Chinese propaganda and diplomacy will antagonize other countries which will review their China policy after the Covid-19 crisis is over, and some will backtrack from the globalization process that has benefited China so much,” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, told the South China Morning Post.

“This will of course hurt the best interests of China and the citizens of China, as they have been the biggest beneficiaries of globalization.”

Mike Pence and Donald TrumpTasos Katopodis/Getty Images

CCP Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had to walk back claims that the US Army brought COVID-19 to the Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this month, saying the accusation had been raised on his “personal Twitter account.” Chinese ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai derided Zhao publicly for the remark in a March interview with Axios.

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