After Vice President Mike Pence excoriated China and American companies that he accused of selling out their principles to do business there, a sharp response from Beijing was to be expected. But perhaps not this sharp.
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded to Mr. Pence on Friday with an epic counterblast, accusing him of using China as a prop to distract from the United States’ failings.
Mr. Pence is one the Trump administration’s most vehement critics of China, and on Thursday he denounced American companies that he said had compromised American values like free speech to appease the Chinese Communist Party. He accused some N.B.A. owners and players of “siding with” the party in a controversy ignited by a Houston Rockets executive who expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Ms. Hua stepped up to the podium to brief reporters in Beijing, made some announcements about diplomatic activities, and before a reporter could ask a question, unleashed a denunciation of Mr. Pence and his allies that lasted more than six minutes, lobbing virtually every stock taunt that the Chinese government keeps for such occasions.
Mr. Pence’s speech “exuded sheer arrogance and hypocrisy, and was packed with political prejudice and lies,” Ms. Hua said. “China expresses its strong indignation and adamant disapproval.”
She was just getting started.
She took particular umbrage at American politicians who have censured China’s policies in Xinjiang, where the government has detained a million or more members of Muslim minorities in re-education camps. She also scorned criticisms of Chinese policy in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets for over 20 weeks, leading to clashes with the police and supporters of the city’s pro-Beijing administration.
“A bunch of American politicians led by Pence have thrown into confusion right and wrong on these issues, made thoughtless remarks and concocted slanders,” Ms. Hua said. “Any schemes to dishonor China and pour filth on it are destined to be nothing more than vain delusions tossed aside by history.”
Ms. Hua rejected the accusation that the Chinese government was forcing foreign firms and organizations to accept its positions as the price of access to its enormous market. Mr. Pence had accused the N.B.A. of “acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”
Apart from offering a primer in Chinese political invective, Ms. Hua’s scornful response illustrated how brittle Chinese-American relations have become.
Beijing and Washington agreed this month to a partial truce in their trade war of tariffs and countertariffs. But distrust remains high, and tensions over technology, investment and economic ties have become increasingly entangled in ideological divisions.
Ms. Hua went further than Chinese spokespeople usually do, accusing Mr. Pence of using China to distract the American public from problems like frequent mass shootings, “ever-present racism” and a “stark gulf between rich and poor.”
“Pence and his ilk,” she said, are “trying to shift the attention of the American public and cover over their own political abuses by vilifying other countries.”
In his speech, Mr. Pence offered some hope for relations with China, saying that the Trump administration wanted a new relationship and was not seeking to “decouple” the two economies.
Ms. Hua also ended on a slightly milder note.
“Chinese-Americian relations are not a zero-sum game,” she said. “Both countries benefit from cooperation and are hurt when they fight.”