Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing. (Photo by Andy Wong/AFP/Getty Images)


( – As the number of novel coronavirus cases reportedly continues to fall in China – in sharp contrast to the situation in other parts of the world – the country’s state-run media is reacting furiously to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s criticism of China’s handling of the outbreak.

Pompeo attracted especially strong censure for labeling the virus “the Wuhan coronavirus” – for the city in China’s Hubei province where it first emerged late last year.

Although Chinese officials, health experts and media outlets state routinely that Wuhan was where the outbreak began, more recently some have started calling that into question, even disseminating conspiracy theories about the U.S. being responsible for it.

On Friday, Pompeo said during a CNBC interview, “this is the Wuhan coronavirus that’s caused this, and the information that we got at the front end of this thing [from the Chinese] wasn’t perfect, and has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve.”

“It has proven incredibly frustrating to work with the Chinese Communist Party to get our hands around the data set which will ultimately be the solution to both getting the vaccine and attacking this risk,” he said.

A presenter pointed out that some state-run media in China were now saying that “it’s not clear that this even came from China at this point.”

“No less authority than the Chinese Communist Party said it came from Wuhan,” Pompeo said. “So don’t take Mike Pompeo’s word for it. We have pretty high confidence that we know where this began.”

The topic came up in a Fox & Friends appearance, too, with Pompeo again referring to “the Wuhan virus,” and saying that “the data set out of China has been imperfect.”

Asked about his use of the term, he said, “the Chinese Communist Party has said that this is where the virus started. So don’t take my word for it; take theirs.”

A nearly-empty street in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, on March 8. (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

A nearly-empty street in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, on March 8. (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

The Communist Party-affiliated Global Times in an editorial Sunday criticized Pompeo for “blatantly” calling the virus the “Wuhan coronavirus.”

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has publicly discouraged labeling the virus with names referring to specific places, and most political figures and media outlets across the world have followed WHO’s recommendations,” it said.

“Moreover, it has not yet been determined where the coronavirus originated. Naming it ‘Wuhan virus’ is scientifically groundless and morally irresponsible.”

“His speaking of the ‘Wuhan virus’ was rude and vicious, and the accusation [of non-transparency] was ridiculous,” Global Times said.

(The WHO has formally labeled the novel coronavirus “ SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes “COVID-19.”)

‘Blaming others for its own faults’

State-run China Daily said in an editorial that if the U.S. was “behind the curve,” as claimed by Pompeo, that was because the administration had “not reacted in a timely manner to the information that has been provided by China.”

It said China had wasted no time providing the WHO with the genetic sequence of the coronavirus, and has maintained regular communication with countries, including the U.S.

“It is not only the Chinese people’s heroic efforts to fight the virus at home that have won worldwide recognition, but also the Chinese authorities’ rigorous efforts and the transparency of what it is doing,” the paper said, noting that WHO has praised China’s response.

Pointing to the contrasting numbers of new cases in the U.S. and China, China Daily said that “indicates the U.S. administration has tremendous work to do, work that is only being impeded by it blaming others for its own faults.”

In the early days and weeks of the outbreak, more than 90 percent of confirmed cases worldwide were in Wuhan (pop: 11 million) and Hubei province. Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) researchers unambiguously linked the outbreak to Wuhan, and pointed as the likely source a market that traded in living wild animals, including chickens, marmots, and snakes.

In late January the mayor of Wuhan publicly offered to resign, acknowledging widespread anger at the slow release of information about the virus.

A doctor who tried to blow the whistle on the mystery new virus was censured and silenced.  He was later himself infected, and died in early February.

On February 26, the number of new cases outside of China passed those in China for the first time, since when the gap has widened significantly. As of Sunday, Hubei still accounts for 84 percent of all cases in China, 61.5 percent of all cases worldwide, and 78.6 percent of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide.

According to WHO’s daily update on Sunday, the number of new cases in China over the previous 24 hours dropped below 100 for the first time since late January, to 46. Outside of China, 3,610 new cases were reported, with Italy (1,247 new cases), Iran (1,076), South Korea (367), Germany (156), and France (93) worst affected.

(Graph: / Data: WHO)

Although not reflected in WHO figures – which were last updated early Sunday morning U.S. eastern time – the United States reported a jump in new cases, which stood at 554 by early Monday morning.

Twenty-one deaths have been reported – 17 in King County and one in Snohomish county in Washington state; and one each in Lee county, Florida; Placer county, California; and Santa Rosa county, Florida.