Coronavirus crisis: Xinhua slams 'irresponsible' US politicos in latest State media effort to clean up after Xi Jinping regime

China may have largely tamed the coronavirus within its borders, but it seems the bigger battle of reshaping the narrative around its handling of the pandemic is well underway.

FP Staff May 11, 2020 11:07:17 IST
Coronavirus crisis: Xinhua slams 'irresponsible' US politicos in latest State media effort to clean up after Xi Jinping regime

China may have largely tamed the coronavirus within its borders, but it seems the bigger battle of reshaping the narrative around its handling of the pandemic is well underway.

Over the past few weeks, even as China has seen fewer and fewer cases of the coronavirus, its State media, particularly Xinhua, has been batting cleanup for the Xi Jinping regime and verbally assailing the United States.

In a pair of breathlessly-worded pieces entitled Reality Check of US Allegations Against China on COVID-19 and Truth in China's pandemic battle smashes absurd US allegations published on Sunday and today, the news agency accused politicians and media outlets in the states of "fabricating preposterous allegations and lies of one kind or another in order to shift the blame to China for their inadequate response to COVID-19".

Interestingly, both pieces opened with the saying 'you cannot fool all the people all the time'  — a statement often attributed to US president Abraham Lincoln — and "lies evaporate in the light of truth. It is time to let facts speak for themselves" (Beijing will never be accused of having a light touch) before going on the attack against Washington.

Sunday's mammoth near 10,000-word piece, which rather pointedly vowed to "continue to reveal the truth to the world whenever new lies appear", offered a point-by-point rebuttal of Washington's critiques of Beijing by pointing to reports from Western media outlets such as Vox, Sky, CNN, NPR and USA Today and prestigious journals such as The Lancet and Nature.

Coronavirus crisis Xinhua slams irresponsible US politicos in latest State media effort to clean up after Xi Jinping regime

File image of Chinese president XI Jinping. Reuters

Don't call it Wuhan virus

Sunday's piece began by addressing those who call COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" or the "Wuhan virus" (a particularly sore point for the Xi regime), saying that the WHO had "made it clear that a disease should not be associated with a particular country or place."

Citing lessons learned in previous battles against pandemics, particularly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, the article stated that as per the guidelines issued by the WHO in 2015 "the naming of a disease should avoid geographic locations, people’s names, class of animal or food, cultural, population, industry or occupational references (for example legionnaires) and terms that incite undue fear."

"The New York Times, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other mainstream media in the West all reported that the wrongful connection of Asian communities with COVID-19 stoked serious xenophobia, and frequent occurrences of racist discrimination and harassment against these communities in the US," the article further stated.

Disputing that the virus originated in Wuhan, saying that "source tracing is a serious scientific matter, which should be based on science and should be studied by scientists and medical experts", the article pointed to previous infections such as HIV and the Spanish Flu, which are thought to have originated in countries other than where the first cases were reported.

'No evidence virus is man made'

It also rebuffed the notion that the virus was "constructed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology", saying all available evidence — including an article published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet — pointed to the disease being natural in origin and that bats might be the original hosts of this virus. Addressing the theory that the virus leaked from the Wuhan institute, the op-ed stated, "The Institute does not have the capability to design or synthesize a new coronavirus, and there is no evidence of pathogen leaks or staff infections in the Institute."

The article also provided a timeline of how China had provided information to the international community in a “timely”, “open and transparent” manner to rebuke US suggestions that it had been slow to sound the alarm. The article further rejected Western criticism of Beijing’s handling of the case of Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old doctor who had tried to raise the alarm over the outbreak of the new virus in Wuhan.

His death from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, prompted an outpouring of rage and grief across China. Its article said Li was not a “whistle-blower” and he was never arrested, contrary to many Western reports, but it did mention that he was reprimanded by the local police for "spreading unconfirmed information".

Though Li was later named among “martyrs” mourned by China, an investigation into his case also drew criticism online after it merely suggested the reprimand against him be withdrawn.

And on Monday...

Monday's follow-up article by Wang Zhuolun, a regurgitation of Sunday's greatest hits, clocked in at a far shorter, but still respectable 2,400 words.  "Instead of concentrating on fighting against the pandemic domestically, some US politicians recently have been fabricating preposterous allegations and pinning the blame on China, to hide their irresponsibility at home," Zhuolun wrote, rather admirably arriving at the point straight away.

The op-ed dismissed allegations of a cover-up:  "China's transparency in data releasing has been consistent. On 17 April, Wuhan issued a notification revising up confirmed cases by 325 to a total of 50,333, and fatal cases by 1,290 to a total of 3,869. Revision is by no means equal to covering-up. On the contrary, it was out of a high sense of responsibility to the people and to the lives lost to the coronavirus that Wuhan took the initiative to revise the numbers. When the city was first hit by the virus, hospitals were running overloaded and some patients passed away at home, and there were missed, delayed, inadequate or inaccurate reporting of cases."

The piece also offered a stirring defence of China and the World Health Organisation, dismissed any allegations of Beijing manipulating the agency and took aim at Washington cutting its funding. "Amid increasing severe pandemic situations around the globe, the US decision to halt its funding to the WHO has drawn sharp criticism. Saying the WHO "failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion," some US politicians alleged China is "manipulating" and "bribing" the organization. This accusation is absurd. As a firm supporter to multilateralism, China has all along been in good communication and cooperation with the WHO, a specialised UN agency responsible for public health security composed of 194 member states," the piece stated.

The op-ed ended with a cliche and a whiff of self-pity, "A friend in need is a friend indeed. China has been doing its utmost to help countries in need. However, China's sincere efforts were distorted by some US politicians as to serve "political and propaganda purposes."

"China's assistance to other countries is a return of their kindness in helping China with the COVID-19 response. The actions of support and assistance have been widely recognized by the international community. It is also a concrete step to put into action the vision of building a community with a shared future for humanity," the article concluded.

Beijing and Washington at odds

Of course, this is merely a small part of a larger game between China and the United States that began as early as February, even as the US president was warned in briefings of the possible scale of the pandemic and its seriousness.

With the US presidential election bearing down on Donald Trump, and with seniors in swing states starting to reevaluate their support for him, the president is eager to change the subject from his 'chaotic handling' of the crisis, as his predecessor Barack Obama called it. China, too, is eager to distract from allegations it downplayed the outbreak and moved too slowly. It seems that this back and forth between Beijing and Washington will continue for the foreseeable future.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date:

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