Beijing Fears COVID-19 Is Turning Point for China, Globalization

Beijing Fears COVID-19 Is Turning Point for China, Globalization, by Michael Austin.

While the world fights the coronavirus pandemic, China is fighting a propaganda war. Beijing’s war aim is simple: shift away from China all blame for the outbreak, the botched initial response, and its early spread into the broader world. …

The communist government instead is claiming that it has largely controlled the epidemic, even as it suspiciously now blames “foreign arrivals” for new cases of virus. Leaked video from China shows huge lines at a hospital in Chongqing, for example, raising questions about just what is happening around the country. …

What Beijing cares about is clear from its sustained war on global public opinion. Chinese propaganda mouthpieces have launched a broad array of attacks against the facts, attempting to create a new narrative about China’s historic victory over the Wuhan virus.

Chinese state media is praising the government’s “effective, responsible governance,” but the truth is that Beijing is culpable for the spread of the pathogen around China and the world. Chinese officials knew about the new virus back in December, and did nothing to warn their citizens or impose measures to curb it early on. Instead of acting with necessary speed and transparency, the party-state looked to its own reputation and legitimacy. It threatened whistleblowers like the late Dr. Li Wenliang, and clamped down on social media to prevent both information about the virus and criticism of the Communist Party and government from spreading.

Unsurprisingly, China also has enablers abroad helping to whitewash Beijing’s culpability. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus [an Ethipian who owes China big time, see here] refused for months to declare a pandemic, and instead thanked China for “making us safer,” a comment straight out of an Orwell novel. This is the same WHO that has refused to allow Taiwan membership, due undoubtedly to Beijing’s influence over the WHO’s purse strings.

Most egregiously, some Chinese government officials have gone so far as to claim that the Wuhan virus was not indigenous to China at all, while others, like Mr. Tedros, suggest that China’s response somehow bought the world “time” to deal with the crisis.

That such lines are being repeated by global officials and talking heads shows how effectively China’s propaganda machine is shaping the global narrative. The world is quickly coming to praise the Communist Party’s governance model, instead of condemn it. …

Xi’s own legitimacy is not merely at stake. His government is ferociously fighting to divert blame and attention, fearing that the world rightfully may utterly reassess modern China, from its technocratic prowess to its safety. Decades of a carefully curated global image may crumble if nations around the globe start paying attention to China’s lax public health care, incompetent and intrusive government, and generally less developed domestic conditions. …

The world never should have been put at risk by the coronavirus. Equally, it never should have let itself become so economically dependent on China. The uniqueness of the coronavirus epidemic is to bring the two seemingly separate issues together. That is why Beijing is desperate to evade blame, not merely for its initial incompetence, but because the costs of the system it has built since 1980 are now coming into long-delayed focus.