Die Welt: A pandemic for propaganda
Were it not for the Chinese concealment, there would be no coronavirus pandemic. However, the PRC is now rescuing itself and launching a propaganda campaign. Will the country that started the epidemic turn the crisis to its advantage?
Zero. Or Chinese ling. One of the words that is now defining political debate in China is this number. Number of new daily coronavirus infections. It is a milestone and should divide the epidemic into “before” and “after”. And to show that the virus has been overcome.
On March 19, the National Health Commission first announced zero new infections. In China, no one has contracted a coronavirus. Although the Commission reported 34 cases the same day, all 34 cases referred to so-called imported infections. They seem to have been brought to China by arriving people. Since then, this pattern has been repeated. Then China also reported numerous zeros:
March 23 – zero new patients, 39 cases of imported infection.
March 24 – zero new patients, 47 cases of imported infection.
March 25 – Zero new patients, 67 cases of imported infection.
March 26 – zero new patients, 54 cases of imported infection.
March 27 – zero new patients, 54 cases of imported infection.
Therefore, the number of infected people in China for some time is constantly kept at 82 thousand. The only question is whether these figures are true. Is it possible to contain the epidemic so radically in two months that there are practically no new infections in the country with a population of 1.4 billion? Does China show global figures that reflect not the reality but the fantasy of the Communist Party?
Meanwhile, there are already indicators indicating the latter. China’s Caixin recently reported that more than a dozen infections occur in Wuhan every day. But they are not considered because, despite the positive tests, the infected have no symptoms. No symptoms, no new infections – it seems to have become a new slogan of power. In addition, it is virtually guaranteed that approximately 85% of coronavirus-infected symptoms are absent or mild. Hong Kong’s RTHK even reported that hospitals in Wuhan were sending people home without testing. The source was quoted as saying that “this is not a medical but a political explanation.” Another article in Caixin wrote that Wuhan residents could already pick up the ashes of their loved ones from funeral agencies. Officially, 2531 people died in the epicenter of the coronavirus. However, the photo in the article shows that there was only 3,500 urns in one funeral home. According to Caixin, there are eight such funeral homes in Wuhan.
According to Jeremy L. Wallace, a connoisseur of China and a professor at Cornell University, figures in Chinese politics play a crucial role. “Chinese officials are very attentive to the figures,” he writes in The Washington Post, “especially to statistics such as GDP growth, tax levies, investments, which have long been the centerpiece of the Communist Party system for evaluating employees.” Official figures from China should be skeptical, even if it is obvious that isolating an entire province should reduce the number of infections.
On January 23, China closed the Hubei province, with a population of 60 million, from the outside world. As the WHO wrote in March, it is “probably the most ambitious, rapid and aggressive in the history of efforts to localize the disease.” It was the case, even if China used methods practically unthinkable in a democratic rule of law. And China was too late to report the outbreak. When the first mention of a new virus circulating in Wuhan began to emerge in late December, local authorities forced the silence of those who spoke. According to Chinese party media, President Xi Jinping reported the outbreak on January 7. But for the first time, he spoke publicly on the subject in almost two weeks – on January 20, three days before the sudden quarantine. That the new virus may be transmitted from person to person by WHO, December 31, ironically, reported Taiwan, a democratic island nation that is not even a member of the Organization through Chinese isolationist policies. But WHO ignored this warning. It also seems that the Organization did not draw conclusions from its mistake. A senior adviser to the WHO chief abruptly interrupted an interview with Hong Kong-based RTHK TV station when the journalist persistently tried to ask questions about Taiwan.
The implications of this false management of China and WHO can be expressed in numbers: it is estimated that scientists from Southampton University would have contracted 66% fewer people if China had taken measures to combat the coronavirus a week before the official announcement. According to a study in the journal Science, 86% of the cases had not been identified before isolating Hubei Province on 23 January. The NGO Reporters Without Borders sums up the effects of Chinese censorship of the press and the Internet: “If the Chinese press were free, the coronavirus would probably not become a pandemic.”
Last Wednesday, provincial authorities finally removed the isolation from Hubei province. On April 8, restrictions should be lifted from Wuhan City. Central message: we’re back to business as usual. In fact, the country is far from that. In many provinces, schools are still closed. There is also no new date for the abolished People’s Congress, the most important political event in the Chinese calendar. But China has already switched. The country that started the coronavirus no longer wants to be a victim of the epidemic. It exploits the crisis that has plagued Europe and the US, and puts itself at a helpline. Beijing dispatches medical equipment and specialists around the world – from Japan to Iraq, from Spain to Peru. The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, has been busy for days in stubbornly reporting to which Xi Jinping heads of state have warmly expressed their support and sent aid. Just recently, she devoted three of the seven articles on the editorial to Xi, who had conducted the day before. However, these seemingly altruistic gestures are political calculations. Beijing is in dire need of regaining control of the political narrative in its own country, writes Tisa Zeng, a Yale professor at ChinaFile online magazine: “International comparisons and accusations offer a way out.”
With its help, China deliberately hits the critical areas of the European Union. In countries with skeptical EU policies, Beijing is succeeding. For example, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Mayo of the 5 Star Movement took to Facebook to broadcast a live broadcast praising China’s arrival in Italy. Last May, Italy made Italy the first of the G7 to become a member of the “new Silk Road” initiative, a Chinese infrastructure project that critics see as a tool of pressure for Beijing. Alexander Vucic, the president of Serbia, even kissed the Chinese flag eagerly when a Chinese aid team arrived in Belgrade. Serbia is a candidate for EU membership. This bias towards China could be a signal to other countries in the EU’s southeast flank.
German companies can also get into Chinese firms during the crisis. So again, rumors have emerged that Chinese shareholders Geely and BAIC are trying to increase their holdings in Daimler. The Chinese have long shown interest in expanding their involvement in the Swabian enterprise. A sharp fall in the rate since the beginning of the pandemic in the hands of the Chinese for a profitable purchase of another share in Daimler. Stocks lost almost a third of the price during the month.
The advance of Chinese propaganda has provoked strong criticism in the EU. “A global battle of narratives is underway,” Joseph Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, writes on the EU’s website. China is aggressively spreading the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner. Europe is moving into a world of ever-increasing geopolitical tensions, especially between the US and China. “The coronavirus is a common enemy of the world against which we need global mobilization,” Borrell said in a conversation with Die Welt. The EU is relying on international solidarity and multilateral efforts. “Because now some countries are more affected than others, while others have been more severely affected yesterday and others will be more affected tomorrow. And no one can overcome this situation alone. “
The fact that the number of people infected in the US has exceeded the figures in China plays a role in Beijing’s propaganda. Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, relations between superpowers have deteriorated dramatically. Relations between Beijing and Washington have been the worst since diplomatic relations were established in 1979. However, now the trade war and confrontation over the role of China’s Huawei IT enterprise in Europe’s 5G networks has added to the conflict over who is to blame for the epidemic. Since then, Washington and China have exchanged allegations. One of the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesmen was spreading the theory of conspiracy, saying the US Army could bring the virus to Wuhan. In response, Donald Trump recently spoke of a “Chinese virus” to clearly state where it came from. Beijing has sent over a dozen US journalists, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Washington has also limited the number of Chinese media representatives in the United States. However, what seems to be a retaliatory step is not, in fact, because the Chinese are not state-of-the-art media outlets but government propaganda media. “Coronavirus can change the global order” – with the headline a few days ago came out the American magazine Foreign Affairs.
Taiwan must gain access to WHO
The VAR faction in the German Bundestag requires WHO as observer status in Taiwan. In their corresponding letter to Die Welt, the Liberals are calling on the federal government to make every effort to ensure that representatives of this island democracy have their status as an international organization. Taiwan, as an observer, must also participate in the May meeting of the World Health Assembly – the WHO General Assembly in Geneva. In addition, Taipei representatives should be allowed to exchange information and to attend all WHO meetings on COVID-19.
Because of China’s isolationist policy, Taiwan is not a member of WHO. Therefore, this democratic country does not have access to WHO information and databases that pose a health risk. From 2009 to 2016, Taipei had observer status. However, after the 2016 Cai Yingven elections, Taiwan’s president banned China. According to model estimates by Johns Hopkins University, Taiwan, due to its close ties with China, should face the third largest epidemic. In fact, the COVID-19 epidemic in Taiwan has spread far less than expected. The prudent actions and good coordination of the country managed to contain the number of infections. Because WHO recognizes Taiwan as part of the PRC through Beijing’s pressure, the island nation is considered a high-risk country.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s pressure on WHO not to take into account Taiwan’s expertise in the fight against the pandemic is completely unacceptable,” VDP MP Frank Müller-Rosentritt said in an interview with Die Welt. “Taiwan should instead be granted observer status at WHO for this island nation to share information.”
(c) Die Welt