|Deputy Director of Foreign Ministry Information Department of the People's Republic of China|
|Assumed office |
|Born||November 10, 1972|
|Political party||Communist Party of China|
|Alma mater||Korea Development Institute|
Zhao Lijian (Chinese: 赵立坚; pinyin: Zhào Lìjiān; born 10 November 1972) is a Chinese politician and the current deputy director of Foreign Ministry Information Department. He is the 31st spokesperson since the position was established in the ministry back in 1983. He joined the Foreign Service in 1996 and has served primarily in Asia. Zhao gained notoriety during his time serving in Pakistan for his outspoken use of Twitter, a social network website that is blocked within China.
Zhao was born in Hebei on November 10, 1972. He joined the Department of Asian Affairs in 1996. He obtained a master's degree in public policy from the Korea Development Institute in 2005. In 2009, he became secretary of the Embassy of China in Washington, D.C. In 2013, he was recalled to the Department of Asian Affairs. From 2015 to August 2019, he served as counsellor and minister counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan.
Zhao became well known for his frequent use of Twitter to criticize the United States, including on topics such as race relations and the United States foreign policy in the Middle East. In July 2019, he engaged in a contentious dispute with Susan Rice, a former national security advisor to President Barack Obama, regarding China's mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Susan Rice called him a "racist disgrace", and the dispute raised Zhao's profile in Beijing.
He has been deputy director of Foreign Ministry Information Department of the People's Republic of China since August 2019.
At a March 2020 press conference, Zhao said "no conclusion has been reached yet on the origin of the virus, as relevant tracing work is still underway." On Twitter, Zhao condemned United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for using the term "Wuhan virus", and retweeted Americans who were accusing Republicans of racism and xenophobia.
Later in March, Zhao promoted a conspiracy theory that the United States military could have brought the novel coronavirus to China. On March 12, Zhao tweeted, first in English and separately in Chinese:
When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!
Zhao accompanied his post with a video of Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, addressing a US Congressional committee on March 11. Redfield had said some Americans who had seemingly died from influenza later tested positive for the new coronavirus. Redfield did not say when those people had died or over what time period.
On March 13, Zhao urged his followers to share an allegation from a conspiracy website that the disease originated in the US. The allegation was apparently linked to the United States' participation at the 2019 Military World Games held in Wuhan in October, well before any reported outbreaks. Zhao's tweet linked to an article from the Centre for Research on Globalization. BuzzFeed News reported that in the article, "Larry Romanoff, a regular writer for the site who has posted a bevy of misinformation about the coronavirus, cites a Chinese study, covered by Global Times, that claimed the virus began in late November somewhere else than Wuhan."
The US State Department summoned Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai on March 13 to protest about Zhao's comments. During an interview on Axios on HBO, Cui distanced himself from Zhao's comments and said speculating about the origin of the virus was "harmful".
In April 2020, Zhao defended his tweets, saying his posts were "a reaction to some U.S. politicians stigmatizing China a while ago."
- Huang Yuqin (黄钰钦) (24 February 2020). 外交部新任发言人赵立坚亮相 系资深外交官履历丰富. chinanews.com (in Chinese). Retrieved 5 March 2020.
- Owen Churchill (24 August 2019). "Chinese diplomat Zhao Lijian, known for his Twitter outbursts, is given senior foreign ministry post". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
- Wescott, Ben; Jiang, Steven (14 March 2020). "Chinese diplomat promotes conspiracy theory that US military brought coronavirus to Wuhan". CNN. Archived from the original on 14 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
- "Meet The Chinese Diplomat Who Got Promoted For Trolling The US On Twitter". BuzzFeed News. 2 December 2019.
- Zhou, Laura (15 July 2019). "Former US national security adviser Susan Rice calls Chinese diplomat Zhao Lijian 'a racist disgrace' after Twitter tirade". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
- Zhai, Keith; Tian, Yew Lun (31 March 2020). "In China, a young diplomat rises as aggressive foreign policy takes root". Reuters. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
- Yue Huairang (岳怀让) (23 August 2019). 赵立坚出任外交部新闻司副司长 [Zhao Lijian appointed deputy director of Foreign Ministry Information Department]. thepaper.cn (in Chinese). Retrieved 5 March 2020.
- Hall, Louise (March 12, 2020). "Coronavirus conspiracy theory that Covid-19 originated in US spreading in China" The Independent.
- "Chinese Diplomats Are Pushing Conspiracy Theories That The Coronavirus Didn't Originate In China". BuzzFeed News. 13 March 2020.
- "China sidesteps spokesman's claim of U.S. role in coronavirus outbreak" Reuters. March 13, 2020.
- Myers, Steven Lee (March 13, 2020). "China Spins Tale That the U.S. Army Started the Coronavirus Epidemic" The New York Times.
- Zheng, Sarah (March 13, 2020). "Chinese foreign ministry spokesman tweets claim US military brought coronavirus to Wuhan" South China Morning Post.
- Finnegan, Conor (March 14, 2020). "False claims about sources of coronavirus cause spat between the US, China" ABC News.
- Zhou, Viola (March 23, 2020). "Coronavirus barbs help nobody, China’s Washington ambassador says after ‘US army’ tweets" South China Morning Post.
- "China Spokesman Defends Virus Tweets Criticized by Trump". Bloomberg. 7 April 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2020.