China has reacted with fury after Germany’s most popular newspaper Bild suggested Beijing should pay reparations for the coronavirus pandemic.
The German paper calculated an ‘invoice’ of nearly €150billion (£130billion) in economic damage to Germany because of the crisis.
The Chinese embassy in Berlin responded with an angry letter which accused the paper of ‘stirring up nationalism’ and prejudice towards China.
But Bild’s editor has retorted with his own letter, accusing Beijing of ‘endangering the world’ by failing to shut down the wild animal markets where the virus is feared to have originated.
China’s government has entered into a row with German newspaper Bild after it suggested Beijing should pay reparations for the coronavirus pandemic. Bild’s editor retorted with a letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping (pictured)
The editor of Bild has responded to criticism from the Chinese embassy with a letter published in German and English (pictured) accusing China of ‘endangering the world’
The original Bild article was published last Wednesday with the headline: ‘What China Already Owes Us’.
Presenting what it called the ‘corona invoice’, Bild said politicians were demanding ‘consequences’ after the virus spread from China around the world.
Bild’s calculations included a €24billion bill for lost tourism, €1million per hour for Lufthansa and €50billion for small businesses affected by the standstill.
The idea of charging reparations to China is not endorsed by the German government, which has described the concept as ‘illusory’.
Nonetheless, the Bild article drew a furious response from Chinese diplomats who voiced their anger in a letter on the embassy website.
‘Your report is not only missing crucial facts and exact timings but also any modicum of journalistic diligence and fairness,’ the letter signed by spokeswoman Tao Lili said.
‘Anyone who makes calculations like this is stirring up nationalism and prejudice as well as xenophobia and animosity towards China.
‘It does not live up to either the traditional friendship between our people or to a serious understanding of journalism.
‘Against this background, I ask myself where in your newsroom this dislike of our people and our country has come from?
‘There is no script for a crisis of this magnitude. It’s more necessary than ever that we co-operate and learn from this pandemic together.
‘In the meantime, renowned international scientists have acknowledged that China’s quick and decisive actions made an important contribution to stemming the pandemic and bought the rest of the world at least a month of time. Unfortunately we have not read any of that in your article.’
Bild suggested China should pay reparations after the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan, apparently linked to a wild seafood market in the city. Workers in protective gear are pictured catching a giant salamander which reportedly escaped from the market in January
The embassy also denied allegations that China had covered up the disease, insisting it had informed the WHO about the outbreak even when only a few dozen people had the virus.
The letter also accused other countries of blaming China to distract from their own failures in managing the epidemic.
Bild’s editor Julian Reichelt has since responded with his own letter, published in German and English and addressed directly to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
‘You rule by surveillance. You wouldn’t be president without surveillance. You monitor everything, every citizen, but you refuse to monitor the diseased wet markets in your country,’ Reichelt wrote.
‘You shut down every newspaper and website that is critical of your rule, but not the stalls where bat soup is sold.
‘You are not only monitoring your people, you are endangering them – and with them, the rest of the world.’
The exact source of the virus remains unclear, but many of the early cases were linked to a live animal market in Wuhan.
Reichelt also highlighted claims that a Wuhan laboratory had been researching bat viruses without sufficient safety standards, hinting at a possible alternative cause.
China rejects this theory, but it has been touted by US President Donald Trump among others.
Reichelt continued: ‘Your embassy tells me that I am not living up to the traditional friendship of our peoples.’
‘I suppose you consider it a great friendship when you now generously send masks around the world. This isn’t friendship, I would call it imperialism hidden behind a smile – a Trojan Horse.
‘You plan to strengthen China through a plague that you exported. You will not succeed. Corona will be your political end, sooner or later.’