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As relations between the U.S. and China grow increasingly fraught, Beijing is trying out ridicule to press its case.
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has released a short animation titled “Once Upon a Virus,” mocking the U.S. response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The video features conspicuously Lego-like figures representing the two countries and exchanging taunts — with the Chinese figure delivering all the best zingers (watch the video below).
Washington and Beijing continue to spar over the origins of the coronavirus outbreak, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and gradually spread to become the 21st century’s first pandemic.
The video features a Lego-shaped terra-cotta warrior figure wearing a medical mask and facing off against the Statue of Liberty (notably unmasked).
“We discovered a new virus,” says the warrior. “So what?” the Statue of Liberty says in response. “It’s only a flu.”
The warrior continues to issue responsible-sounding warnings about the virus, while touting some of China’s challenges and achievements in containing it. The Statue of Liberty, meanwhile, makes glib, dismissive replies, many of them echoing President Trump’s early tweets and statements about the epidemic.
“It will magically go away in April,” says the Statue of Liberty.
“Just listen to yourselves,” says the warrior, as the statue gradually turns red and gets connected to an IV drip.
“We are always correct, even though we contradict ourselves,” replies the statue.
“That’s what I love about you Americans — your consistency,” the warrior says as the curtain closes.
The ragtime piano classic “The Entertainer” plays in the background throughout the video.
Since it was posted by Xinhua on April 29, the video has been viewed nearly 2 million times on Twitter. China blocks Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as part of its vast internal censorship system known as “The Great Firewall,” but the country’s spokespeople and propaganda departments regularly use U.S. social media services to disseminate their messaging overseas.
A representative for Lego told Business Insider: “We weren’t involved in making the animation in any way. As a toy company, we’re focusing on bringing play to children and families.”
The video arrives as the war of words between the U.S. and China over responsibility for the global pandemic continues to escalate. President Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both recently said they believe the coronavirus leaked from a Chinese research lab in Wuhan, although no evidence for the claim has been provided yet. The Chinese have been resisting U.S. and European calls for an international investigation into the virus’ origins.
Chinese officials occasionally have encouraged their own conspiracy theories about the virus. A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, tweeted in March that “it might be the U.S. army who brought the virus to Wuhan,” giving tacit endorsement to a popular Chinese theory that the country’s Internet regulators had allowed to circulate freely online for weeks.
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