• The global death toll from COVID-19 stood at more than 258,000 Wednesday morning
  • Ambassador Cui Tiankai said seeking to punish China for the pandemic is counterproductive
  • He said the fact the virus first appeared in Wuhan means only China was its first victim

China on Wednesday warned the Trump administration its insistence on blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic is “an unnecessary burden” has been “undercutting international efforts to curb the virus” and could wreck the two countries’ economic relationship.

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai called absurd the mindset of “always blame China,” adding that officials should look at the facts.

As of Wednesday morning, nearly 3.7 million coronavirus infections have been confirmed globally, killing more than 258,000.

The outbreak has brought the world economy to a virtual halt, causing trillions of dollars in damage. The International Monetary Fund has labeled the pandemic “a crisis like no other,” predicting a global contraction of the second quarter of negative 3 percentage points, making “the great lockdown the worst recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than the global financial crisis.”

China has acknowledged the coronavirus outbreak originated in the industrial city of Wuhan where it spread quickly. The government has said the infection developed in an exotic animals market, but President Trump has said he is inclined to believe the pathogen originated in a nearby research lab despite reports from the U.S. intelligence community saying they have found no evidence that is the case.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, nonetheless, said Sunday there was “enormous evidence” to show COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab.

“Mr. Pompeo repeatedly spoke up, but he cannot present any evidence. How can he? Because he doesn't have any,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily press briefing Wednesday.

The pandemic erupted as the U.S. and China appeared to be winding down their trade war, which saw billions of dollars in tariffs imposed by Washington and retaliatory measures taken by Beijing. The two countries signed what was dubbed as a “phase one” trade deal that was supposed to result in billions of dollars in increased purchases by the Asian giant.

“Since January, China has fought a tough battle against the novel coronavirus and made remarkable progress. In this unprecedented fight, China spared no expense to save lives,” Tiankai wrote.

“However, an unnecessary burden has been distracting our focus and undercutting international efforts to curb the virus: the absurd mind-set of ‘always blame China.’”

Tiankai noted China locked down Wuhan to try to contain the virus. China’s official case count stood at nearly 84,000 Wednesday, with 4,637 deaths, compared to more than 1.2 million confirmed infections in the U.S. – with only a quarter of the Chinese population – and more than 71,000 deaths.

The Trump administration has been highly critical of China’s handling of the outbreak, especially efforts to suppress news about its severity, and its relationship with the World Health Organization, which was warning of the dangers of virus’ spread long before the president appeared to be taking the threat seriously. Trump has suggested punishing China and seeking reparations.

“There is no denying that the first known case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan. But this means only that Wuhan was the first victim of the virus. To ask a victim for compensation is simply ridiculous,” Tiankai wrote.

He continued: “Blaming China will not end this pandemic. On the contrary, the mind-set risks decoupling China and the United States and hurting our efforts to fight the disease, our coordination to reignite the global economy, our ability to conquer other challenges and our prospects of a better future. The United States would not emerge as a winner from this scenario.”