'Once Upon a Virus': China mocks U.S. in Lego-like animation

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has published a short animation titled “Once Upon a Virus” mocking the U.S. response to the new coronavirus using Lego-like figures to represent the two countries.

FILE PHOTO - Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

Washington and Beijing are locked in a war of words over the origins of the disease which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has spread to become a global pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was confident the coronavirus may have originated in a Chinese virology lab, but declined to describe the evidence.

In the animation posted online by China’s official Xinhua news agency, red curtains open to reveal a stage featuring Lego-like figures in the form of a terracotta warrior wearing a face mask and the Statue of Liberty.

“We discovered a new virus,” says the warrior.

“So what?” replies the Statue of Liberty. “It’s only a flu.”

As the warrior issues warnings about the virus and counts off the grim milestones in China’s outbreak, the Statue of Liberty replies dismissively with echoes of Trump’s press conferences in which he played down the severity of the illness.

“Are you listening to yourselves?” asks the warrior as the statue begins to turn red with fever and gets hooked up to an intravenous drip.

“We are always correct, even though we contradict ourselves,” the statue replies.

“That’s what I love about you Americans, your consistency,” says the warrior.

Since its April 29 release on Xinhua’s official YouTube channel, “New China TV”, the video has been viewed more than 960,000 times and was retweeted by some Chinese diplomats.

Both YouTube and Twitter are blocked in China, although China’s diplomats have increasingly taken to global social media platforms to broadcast their messages.

The United States has accused China of misleading the world about the severity of the outbreak, and there are growing calls for an international inquiry into the origins of the virus.

Social media reaction to the video was mixed.

Twitter user “masood mortazavi” agreed with the video’s messaging, saying “US follies bemuse no one anymore.”

But some comments came with the hashtag “ChinaLiedPeopleDied” or show Chinese President Xi Jinping in a variety of virus-related visuals. Others were scathing about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“Clever propaganda. Where is the bit where the CCP covered it up and publicly shamed a hero doctor who then died?” said Twitter user “AC”.

Along with clips of English-language Xinhua video news stories, New China TV has previously uploaded publicity videos such as one of children of different ethnicities singing praises of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Lego said it was not involved in the animation.

Reporting by Engen Tham; Additional reporting by Alexandra Harney in Hong Kong and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates, Himani Sarkar & Simon Cameron-Moore