(CNSNews.com) – As he prepares for his first trip abroad since taking office, President Biden’s weekend comments about rallying the world’s democracies to stand up to China elicited a cutting response in Beijing.
“Are you awake or asleep again?” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times, asked the president of the United States in a jeering tweet.
He also took a dig at U.S. leadership claims, and at Biden’s recent announcement that the U.S. will share 80 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine supply with the world.
Hu was responding to a Washington Post op-ed in which Biden laid out his plans for his trip to Europe, beginning on Wednesday. The president will attend G7, NATO, and European Union summits, before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
“Whether it is ending the COVID-19 pandemic everywhere, meeting the demands of an accelerating climate crisis, or confronting the harmful activities of the governments of China and Russia, the United States must lead the world from a position of strength,” Biden wrote in the article.
Picking up on that sentence in particular Hu, whose paper reflects the thinking of China’s one-party state, asked, “You want to lead the world with 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and excessive U.S. dollar printing?”
“Are you awake or asleep again?” he continued. “Talking about China every day, you are the most diffident U.S. president.”
Biden referred twice more to China in the op-ed. Looking ahead to the G7 summit, he said the world’s leading democracies would offer “a high-standard alternative to China for upgrading physical, digital and health infrastructure that is more resilient and supports global development.”
And he said that his interactions with E.U. leaders would “focus on ensuring that market democracies, not China or anyone else, write the 21st-century rules around trade and technology.”
Global Times in an article Sunday accused Biden of trying to turn the G7 “into a narrow-minded and outdated anti-China and anti-Russia club.”
However, in the eyes of Chinese experts, the G7 is a relic of a past age, whose influence and power are no longer worth looking toward, as the world's economic and political center of gravity has shifted eastward.
Hu’s tweeted jibe about vaccines comes against a backdrop of global sensitivities about the development and distribution of the crucial drugs as the pandemic continues to take lives across the world.
Among the dozens of beneficiary countries of the 80 million vaccine doses announced by Biden will be Taiwan, an island democracy which China views as a rebel province whose people’s welfare are its responsibility alone.
COVID-19 vaccines have become the latest source of contention between the two, especially at a time when Taiwan is struggling with a serious surge of infections, shortly after China yet again blocked Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization’s annual assembly.
China was angered when the Taiwanese government down its offer of Chinese-made vaccines, citing safety and efficacy concerns.
(The WHO early last month gave its first approval to a Chinese vaccine, made by state-owned Sinopharm. Last week it gave approval for another, made by Sinovac. Despite concerns about a lack of evidence, millions of people in China and elsewhere had already received the vaccines before WHO approval.)
For its part, Taiwan accuses China of working to block its attempt to secure Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive the Food and Drug Administration’s green light last December. China denies that.
Only one percent of Taiwan’s 23 million people have been vaccinated, and with a wave of local infections since mid-May, the authorities are under pressure to act quickly.
Last week Japan donated 1.2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Taiwan, and now offers from the U.S. are drawing fresh criticism from Beijing.
On Sunday, three U.S. Senators touring East Asia paid a brief visit to Taipei, meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen at the airport and confirming that the first tranche of U.S.-supplied vaccines being sent around the world, as announced by Biden, will include 750,000 doses for Taiwan.
Reacting to the visit by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Dela.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Global Times in an editorial accused Taiwanese leader of caring more about being “loyal” anti-Chinese pawns of the U.S. than about fighting the pandemic.
Chinese state media also griped about the fact the senators had arrived on a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane. Lu Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called that the most serious Taiwan-related “provocation” since Biden took office.
“We would like to warn the U.S. and authorities on the island,” said Global Times. “If they play salami-slicing tactics over the one-China principle, it is their fingers that will get cut off in the end.”
Vaccines will feature prominently at the G7 summit, the first of three Biden will be attending during his trip.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will host the meeting in Cornwall starting on Friday, said he would push for a goal of vaccinating the entire world against COVID-19 by the end of next year, describing it as “the greatest challenge of the post-war era.”