China Thinks Backlash to Its Coronavirus Response Could Lead to All-Out War With the U.S.

A State Security report warned that anti-China sentiment, led by the U.S., has not been this high since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
china usa trump coronavirus
The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

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The global wave of anti-Chinese sentiment being driven by the Trump administration has led officials in Beijing to warn their government to prepare for armed conflict with the U.S.

That was the finding presented to China’s top leaders, including President Xi Jinping, last month in a confidential report prepared by Beijing’s Ministry of State Security, according to sources with knowledge of the report’s contents who spoke to Reuters.


The document lays out how anti-Chinese sentiment has mirrored the rapid spread of coronavirus around the globe, concluding that hostility toward Beijing has not been this high since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The report was written by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, China’s top intelligence body.

The CICIR researchers conclude that the wave of anti-China sentiment was coming primarily from Washington, and that Beijing needs to be prepared for the worst-case scenario of armed confrontation between the two global powers.

The report was submitted in early April, but since then the Trump administration has ramped up its attacks on the Chinese government, blaming it for the pandemic that has so far killed almost 250,000 people and infected at least 3.5 million worldwide.

Just this weekend, President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both reiterated unproven claims that the virus originated from a government-run lab in Wuhan — despite the office of the Director of National Intelligence definitively declaring last week that the scientific consensus was that the virus was not man made or genetically modified.

Trump also accused China of trying to ensure he loses his reelection bid in November.

READ: The Chinese Government Has Convinced Its Citizens That the U.S. Army Brought Coronavirus to Wuhan


Beijing has been equally willing to make unfounded attacks on the U.S., including the claim that the virus was imported to Wuhan by the U.S. Army during the World Military Games last October.

Chinese citizens have also openly mocked Trump’s claim that 100,000 coronavirus deaths are “not bad.” Last week, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency released “Once Upon a Time Virus,” an animated movie featuring Lego-like figures that ignores any of Beijing’s failings while playing up U.S. missteps.

The tit-for-tat accusations have raised concerns about the possibility of an all-out war between the two nuclear powers. One of the sources who spoke to Reuters said the Ministry of State Security report was regarded by some in the country’s intelligence community as the Chinese version of the “Novikov Telegram,” a 1946 dispatch by the Soviet ambassador to Washington, Nikolai Novikov, that stressed the dangers of U.S. economic and military ambition in the wake of World War Two.

Rather than trying to defuse the situation, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Megan Ortagus added fuel to the fire, claiming that “Beijing’s efforts to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens and spread disinformation exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.”

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Cover: People visit Nanluoguxiang in Beijing, China on May 3, 2020. After the spread of the new coronavirus infection, the emergency response level, which had been the highest "first grade", was lowered to "second grade". ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )