The current conflict between Washington and Beijing erupted after the Chinese edition of the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. The op-ed claimed that Beijing was “trying to conceal the true scale” of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and was struggling “control the epidemic and restart their economy.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has stated that Beijing will be obliged to “take action” if Washington continues to “harass, restrict” Chinese news organizations operating in America.

The ministry said that it had also summoned a US embassy representative to complain about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's condemnation of a Beijing decision to expel three Wall Street Journal reporters.

“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech," Pompeo said in a statement.

Beijing has revoked the press credentials of the WSJ's Beijing deputy bureau chief, Josh Chin, and Beijing-based journalists Chao Deng and Philip Wen, ordering them to leave the country.

The order to expel journalists was issued as the WSJ has repeatedly refused to apologise for a an article branding the Asian country "real sick man of Asia."

Chinese officials were enraged with the article, arguing that the phrase “sick man” is racist in essense as it was used by the Western powers in the 19th century to depreciate China.

The opinion piece, penned by Walter Russell Mead and published on 3 February, among other things alleged that Beijing was failing to “control the epidemic and restart itseconomy” and was attempting to "conceal the true scale" of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.