Inconvenient Truths

Edward Lucas, CEPA, March 23rd

Cover up your mistakes. Simplify the course of events. Exaggerate your achievements. Ignore context. Spread lies. Demand gratitude. That approach is familiar to anyone who looks at the way the Soviet Union, and now Russia, treats the Second World War. But it is also the way the Chinese Communist Party is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Start with the mistakes. The inconvenient truth for the Kremlin is that far from being the bulwark of the anti-fascist cause, Stalin stitched up a deal with Nazi Germany, to the benefit of both countries, with a secret protocol involving the destruction of Central and Eastern Europe. In China’s case, the parallel is the failure to grasp the seriousness of the outbreak last year. Remember Dr. Li Wenliang? He was bullied into silence when he tried to sound the alarm. The Chinese authorities have apologized to his family now and blame local officials for mistreating him. Too late. He’s dead. Taiwan picked up the seriousness of the situation in Wuhan and sounded the alarm to the World Health Organization on December 31. But the UN’s health outfit ignored the warning, kowtowing to Chinese demands to ignore the offshore Chinese democracy. WHO officials who visited China in January were strong-armed into downplaying the seriousness of the outbreak.

That secrecy, deceit, and paranoia cost time and lives. True, China has now, through extraordinary efforts, stopped the virus from spreading further. But other countries—notably Singapore, South Korea, and (again) Taiwan—did just as well, and the human and economic cost was much lower.

Next, simplification. The Russian propaganda line goes like this: We fought Hitler. So if you disagree with us you are a Nazi. The Chinese one goes: we beat the pandemic. If you disagree with us, you are contributing to its spread.

Context and nuance are ignored. Taiwan and other successful virus-busters are unmentionable for China because they complicate the story. For Russians, the similarly uncomfortable questions concern the Winter War against Finland, the Katyń massacre, and the Warsaw Uprising.

Instead, spread lies. China now claims that the virus came from America. (Or perhaps Italy—conspiracy theories do not need to be consistent, just confusing.) Kremlin propaganda claims that the Ukrainians shot down flight MH17, that nobody tried to murder Sergei Skripal (he was kidnapped by MI6), and that the war in eastern Ukraine is a popular anti-Fascist uprising. At home the aim is to stoke the narrative—vital for Vladimir Putin’s survival—that the outside world is malevolent and ill-run. Only in Russia is life safe and stable. Abroad, the aim is to sow confusion, in societies that are already alarmed and uncertain. Divide and rule is what Russia wants. So does China.

Finally: demand gratitude. Russia claims it in return for the heroism of those (many of them not actually Russians) who helped defeat Hitler. Now it is sending doctors and medical supplies to Italy. China is splurging aid too—to Italy, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and other places. These humanitarian gestures are admirable. Nobody should mock them, least of all countries that are failing to offer much help to their neighbors and allies.

But be in no doubt of the political price. The memories of Soviet victories and sacrifice on the eastern front against the Third Reich shaped the worldview of countless West Europeans. The Berlin Airlift in 1948 shaped the views of a generation of West Germans, who saw the effort that the Western allies were willing to make to preserve the city’s freedom. Now millions of Italians and others will remember that when they needed it, help came from the east.


Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Edward Lucas is an expert in energy, intelligence and cyber-security issues. He covered Central and Eastern Europe for more than 20 years, witnessing the final years of the last Cold War, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet empire, Boris Yeltsin’s downfall and Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. Formerly a senior editor at The Economist, he is also a senior vice-president at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

7 comments

  • Edward also produces brief, punchy podcasts. Often they offer excellent analysis of the activities of the fascist rodent. Free access here:

    https://www.edwardlucas.com/category/podcasts/

    Liked by 4 people

  • Communist regimes usually use similar tactics. Their ideas are so bad that they have trouble selling them even to their own sheep. This leaves them with just one prospect and that is to try to demonize those that disagree. As the example above, if you oppose the Moskali view of WWII then you are a nazi.
    In China’s attempt to escape liability, if you name the virus after where it came, you are a racist. As if the Spanish Flu could have come from New Zealand…..

    Liked by 4 people

    • Edward gives us the unvarnished truth. Mainstream western media have conspired to give the chicoms an easy ride. They are not fingering the culprits. Is that because of some secret agreement? China’s blackhearted regime surely must pay compensation proportionally to all the countries that have been damaged economically by its criminal failure to reveal the truth of the virus in time for the victim nations to take defensive medical measures that would have minimised loss of life, loss of jobs & economic losses. Direct flights were still coming in from Wuhan to cities like London, Rome and Paris, which fed this plague. They could have stopped this disaster but did nothing until it was too late.

      Liked by 4 people

    • You mean like the Spanish Flu that originated in Kansas now has to be renamed to the Kansas Flu 🙂

      https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/17/spanish-flu-lessons-coronavirus-133888

      “In March 1918, with the United States fully mobilized for World War I, soldiers at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas, began reporting acute flu-like symptoms, including aches, respiratory distress, chills, coughing and high fever. Just a month later, over 1,100 men had come down with the disease; 46 of them (roughly four percent) had died. It was the start of the infamous “Spanish Flu”—a misnomer for the scourge that likely began in the U.S. but, as troops fanned out across Europe, claimed 21 million lives globally, including over 600,000 Americans.”

      Liked by 2 people

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