Coronavirus: Chinese Media Urge ‘Punishment’ for U.S.-Led ‘Anti-China Actions’

A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he walks during a snowfall in an empty and shuttered commercial street on February 5, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The Global Times, a Chinese government media outlet, urged the Communist Party on Tuesday to “take countermeasures if necessary” against governments that have imposed travel bans on China to prevent the outbreak of a new form of coronavirus originating there from spreading further.

The column demanding that “anti-China actions” related to the outbreak be “punished” – without exactly specifying what punishment would look like – is the latest in an extended media campaign from the Communist Party blaming the United States for spreading “hate” and racism against Chinese people by taking appropriate measures to identify and contain individuals carrying the virus.

The new form of coronavirus is believed to have originated at a wild meat market in Wuhan, central China, a city of 11 million people, in December. Beijing publicly announced the discovery of the new virus on January 20 and has repeatedly claimed to have the situation under control, despite the virus rapidly spreading to the country’s every province and throughout the world.

The novel coronavirus creates flu-like symptoms that can result in pneumonia and death. As of Wednesday, the Chinese government and World Health Organization (WHO) have identified 24,629 coronavirus cases worldwide and 492 deaths, nearly all of them in China. The Communist Party’s secrecy and reports from health workers in Wuhan of hospitals refusing to test symptomatic patients for coronavirus indicate the available numbers are significantly lower than the true number of cases.

These suspicions have in part led to travel restrictions around the world for Chinese citizens, though more commonly to restrictions against foreign nationals who have been to China. In America, President Donald Trump announced that any foreign citizen who has visited China in the past 14 days would not be allowed to enter the country. Other countries have adopted simialr measures.

The Global Times described these measures on Tuesday as “disturbing developments in some corners of the world which are not only counterproductive to containing the virus, but also amount to discrimination and even racism against Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese.”

“Despite the World Health Organization’s recommendation against limiting trade and travel, some governments have banned Chinese nationals from entering their borders,” the Times noted, and continued:

Without proper knowledge of the virus, some foreign individuals and groups have spread rumors and conspiracy theories with racist connotations about China, and have discriminated against Chinese nationals by barring them from stores, restaurants and other establishments.

“While necessary measures taken by foreign governments, groups and individuals to protect themselves from the virus are understandable, China should be alarmed by any malicious actions and prepare to take countermeasures if necessary,” the newspaper concluded, going on to blame America for setting “a poor example for other countries.”

“It is crucial that China is aware of the importance of protecting its national interests and citizens overseas and takes concrete steps to respond by rewarding good deeds and punishing ill-intentioned actions,” the state propaganda outlet declared.

The article did not specify the punishment for “malicious actions,” nor did it define any such actions worth punishing.

In another article, the Global Times claimed that Western media was “fueling … racist sentiment against the Chinese” by “smearing China’s system,” noting the extreme secrecy and shortage of key medical supplies that has hindered the response since China revealed the existence of the virus.

“As China ascends as a major power, developing countries view China with both admiration and caution, while developed ones, especially those in the West, viewing it through critical lens,” the article claimed. “If China were to become a country accepted by the West, it has to be subject to the West ideologically, plus, its national strength cannot unnerve the Western countries. But this is not the path China has chosen.”

The adversarial tenor of the articles match what much of English-language Chinese propaganda has been publishing in the past two weeks as the outbreak has grown. The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, declared that “hatovirus” – the virus of racism against Chinese people – is more dangerous than the coronavirus that has killed nearly 500 people. On Wednesday, the People’s Daily condemned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for various comments about China; the attack on Pompeo was particularly confusing because his remark, that China is a top global threat, was about the spread of surveillance technology through Huawei. It then went on to cite an “expert” who claimed that guns, not coronavirus, were the real threat to Americans.

“While there will be tests along the way, including this new coronavirus outbreak, the ultimate victory must be China’s,” the People’s Daily concluded. “To borrow a phrase, the only thing to fear is fear itself. As for the American politicians with evil intentions, time will see their defeat, and history will record their ugliness.”

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