How China is Exploiting the Coronavirus to Weaken Democracies

How China is Exploiting the Coronavirus to Weaken Democracies, by Peter Rough.

Considering China’s own role in creating the crisis, it is ironic to see China is scoring points in its propaganda war and driving wedges between Western democracies.

Instead of alerting the world of the outbreak, China engaged in an extensive cover-up of its spread. In a breathtaking display of gaslighting, it now projects its own perfidy onto the United States. “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry tweeted recently. “Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

The Chinese Communist Party, known for cooking its books on everything from military spending to economic growth, has applied its trademark mendacity to this crisis, too. Already adept at censoring, China has used the crisis as an opportunity to shut the country off even more from the outside world, expelling most U.S. journalists and enforcing even stricter censorship. As a result, little of what Beijing tells the world is verifiable. If China’s response to the coronavirus appears impressive, it is only because the authorities in Beijing are the ones doing the telling.

Beijing has reinforced this propaganda campaign by sending medical supplies to Europe. It is hard to believe that a country that interns more than 1 million of its own citizens is capable of altruism. Indeed, every Chinese action betrays a Machiavellian motivation behind a humanitarian guise.

Take, for example, the decision by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to donate 800,000 masks to the Netherlands. Why would the conglomerate, known for its closeness to the Chinese government, display such benevolence toward a country which, at the time, had hardly any coronavirus cases? Surely it could not be because the Netherlands’ auction of fifth-generation (5G) mobile licenses is slated for June, and because the Dutch still have to decide whether to exclude Huawei from its 5G networks over espionage concerns.

Or consider Italy, where China has sent doctors and donated ventilators that have been in short supply. Does China’s newfound interest in Italy’s well-being stem from genuine concern, or from that of Rome’s status as one of Europe’s biggest supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative?