Beijing has demanded an explanation from Brazil after the South American country's education minister insinuated on social media that the coronavirus pandemic was part of China's plan for world domination.
Social media attack on China
Brazil's Education Minister, Abraham Weintraub, took to Twitter on Sunday to launch a scathing attack on Beijing, suggesting that the rampantly spreading COVID-19 would help China "dominate the world" and that the Asian giant stands to gain from the deadly virus. In the tweet, which he later deleted, the minister also used speech impediments to mock the Chinese accent.
"Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?" he tweeted a cartoon depicting China on Twitter on Saturday, according to an AFP report published in The Guardian. "Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?"
In his tweet, Weintraub substituted the letter "r" with capital "L" as "BLazil" instead of "Brazil," in an attempt to make fun of the Chinese accent.
China calls Weintraub's tweet 'absurd, despicable' and 'racist'
The Chinese embassy in Brazil, which traded barbs last month with Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro's son for comparing China's handling of the outbreak to the former Soviet Union's Chernobyl nuclear disaster, called Weintraub's post as "defamatory," "stigmatizing," "completely absurd and despicable," and "having a strongly racist manner."
The embassy also demanded an explanation from the minister in its statement, released on Monday. "We demand that some Brazilian individuals immediately correct the errors they have committed and stop with unfounded accusations against China," read the statement obtained by the New York Times.
Brazil-China row over medical equipment
The latest spat between Brazil and China comes as the former, like many other countries, is hoping to source more medical equipment from China to deal with COVID-19. Weintraub said in an interview that he stood by his tweet against China and urged Beijing to make more supplies available to help fight the pandemic.
"If they [China] sell us 1,000 ventilators, I'll get down on my knees in front of the embassy, apologise and say I was an idiot," he said in a radio interview.
Brazil's Health mini Luiz Henrique Mandetta said last week that they were struggling to source ventilators and other vital medical supplies from China, saying that some of its orders were cancelled without explanation after the United States sent more than 20 cargo planes to the country to buy the same products from China.