State Media: Coronavirus Triggering Anti-West ‘Enlightenment’ in China

WUHAN, CHINA - FEBRUARY 10: A man wears a protective mask on February 10, 2020 in Wuhan, China. Flights, trains and public transport including buses, subway and ferry services have been closed for the nineteenth day. The number of those who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, …
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The Chinese state propaganda newspaper Global Times published a column on Monday declaring that the Chinese people are undergoing a cultural “Enlightenment” during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic that makes their culture and society superior to the West.

The column, written by Chinese professor Wang Wen, praises the “discipline” and “national maturity” of the Chinese people for overcoming the coronavirus, failing to mention that at least three provinces in the country – Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Hubei – are experiencing significant escalations in the number of cases documented. In contrast, Wang laments that the values of individual freedom and small government in the West, particularly America, have allegedly made fighting the virus more difficult.

“As long as the government does not officially announce lifting the ban, [Chinese] people will always exercise discipline. Even if their residential areas have never reported an infection case, they will continue to make their own sacrifices for epidemic prevention and control,” Wang contended. “This stands in comparison with the U.S. where an average of 20,000 daily cases have emerged for two consecutive months, the public in many states cannot bear stay-at-home order. Certain people even go to the street to protest control measures. Some even refuse to wear masks and flock to the beach. Some cities are even starting to prepare large-scale sporting events.”

Wang attributed this to “differences of cultures.”

“[N]ational maturity is key to China’s phased success in fighting the epidemic. During the initial stage of the outbreak in January, Chinese society was somehow chaotic, but the situation was soon much better,” Wang claimed. “Obviously, the COVID-19 fight is changing Chinese people’s social and political values. It is like the Enlightenment, and Chinese people are experiencing a new spiritual awakening that is surpassing Western neoliberalism.”

Wang conceded that Western values “contributed to the success of China’s reform” following the brutal tyranny of mass murderer Mao Zedong, but gave them little credit for anything happening in China in the last 40 years.

He concluded that criticism of “Chinese experiences” was “ideological discrimination.”

China has repeatedly used vague references to Communist Party “culture” to assert the alleged superiority of the majority Han ethnic group. China is home to other ethnic groups, but the Communist Party has launched violent campaigns to erase the religious beliefs, language, and values of the largest among them, including the Tibetans and Uyghurs, implying that any references to “traditional Chinese culture” are limited references only to the Han. Most recently, the Global Times published an article insisting that China’s alleged success in fighting the Chinese coronavirus is due to the fact that “our society is quite clean … probably the only one in the world.”

This claim rapidly evolved into assertions that the virus could not have possibly originated in China, despite the fact that no documented cases outside of China exist before those diagnosed in Wuhan in November 2019. Chinese officials began accusing the United States of causing the pandemic, claiming the real origin of the virus was a U.S. Army facility in Maryland. In early March, the Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that documented illnesses related to e-cigarette, or vape, use in America could be evidence that the coronavirus originated there, even though none of the vaping illness patients were found to be contagious.

While upholding its own values, the Global Times, in particular, has attacked American culture as inferior and dangerous. In September, the newspaper published an article blaming American culture for the growing number of deaths in the country attributable to the use of fentanyl, a highly potent opioid manufactured at high quantities in China. The article cited remarks by a Chinese Communist Party anti-narcotics official, who stated that American “culture, politics, and companies” are to blame for opioid deaths.

A year before those declarations, in 2018, the Global Times published an article claiming “drug abuse in American society is very rampant with addiction multiplying sharply in many areas. It is hard to find even one young person in the country who hasn’t tried drugs.”

“In the U.S., consuming marijuana is considered a private affair or even a manifestation of personality and taste,” the article continued, using as its example marijuana use but not distinguishing between the large gap in danger levels between marijuana and fentanyl use. Unlike marijuana, fentanyl is so dangerous that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned it could be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

“As little as two to three milligrams of fentanyl can induce respiratory depression, respiratory arrest, and possibly death. And some fentanyl analogues such as carfentanil are orders of magnitude more potent,” a February 2019 DHS memo stated.

Chinese state media has not limited its bigoted criticism of Western cultures to America.

“My experience says whether a country can achieve industrialization depends on many factors, culture being the most important. … It may sound racist to differentiate development based on culture. But after living in Brazil for a while, you will find out the answer,” a Global Times contributor wrote in 2018, arguing that the South American country would never become developed because Brazilians are lazy. “Brazilians are not willing to be as diligent and hard working as the Chinese. Neither do they value savings for the next generation, like the Chinese do. Yet they demand the same welfare and benefits as those in developed countries.”

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