China’s state-run media launched an all-out political offensive against the United States over coronavirus assistance on Wednesday, simultaneously accusing the U.S. of not doing enough to help and condemning it as racist for offering to help at all.
The unifying factor in these Communist Party screeds, as plainly stated by the People’s Daily, is the allegation that critics of China’s response to the virus “have taken advantage of the epidemic to slander the Chinese government and attack China’s political system.”
The People’s Daily pushed back by arguing the United States did a worse job of controlling the H1N1 virus in 2009:
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 60.8 million Americans contracted the H1N1 virus. From April 12, 2009, to April 10, 2010, the virus led to more than 12,000 deaths in a population of 300 million, a number that is hardly on par with the medical standards of a developed nation.
Additionally, CDC estimates that 151,700-575,400 people worldwide died from the H1N1 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.
Well, at least they declared it a public health emergency. However, the US government clearly failed to take enough measures to control it.
This was followed by the Communist Party’s familiar lament that ordinary influenza outbreaks supposedly infect and kill more people than the Wuhan coronavirus, but no one makes a big deal about the flu, plus some carping about the disaster response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The People’s Daily wrapped up by quoting the same politically useful statements from the World Health Organization (WHO) that Chinese propaganda repeats on a daily basis:
Just like WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said in his speech: “There is a window of opportunity because of the strong measures China is taking at the epicenter, at the source.”
Facts and numbers have clearly displayed the truth: China’s speed, scale, and efficiency all demonstrate the strengths of its system.
US politicians should stop pointing figures at others, especially if the US government is unable to act in times of public emergency. At the very least, they can shut their mouths if they cannot provide actual help to the world.
Another People’s Daily article lamented that the U.S. is not doling out foreign aid quickly enough:
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced recently on social media that Washington would offer up to $100 million to China and other countries affected by the coronavirus to combat its spread, saying “This commitment demonstrates strong U.S. leadership in response to the outbreak.”
However, when asked about the implementation of the fund at a news conference held on Feb.10 in Washington, James Richardson, director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources at the State Department, said the $100 million was just an upper limit.
Except for some assigned projects to help Laos, he didn’t disclose further details about the fund.
Any constructive international cooperation shall be welcomed in this global public health challenge, including the assistance promised by the U.S. for Southeast Asian countries such as Laos.
However, people would question that the implementation of the assistance obviously doesn’t match what Washington has promised. What’s more, the delayed aid is also not convincing enough to back the “strong leadership” claimed by the U.S. government.
But then another state-run Chinese publication, the Global Times, accused the U.S. of racism for insinuating that China needs any help at all, tossing in the same H1Z1 figures quoted by the People’s Daily to argue that America has no standing to criticize China’s handling of the coronavirus:
This double standard not only reflects the US stance toward China’s efforts in combating the outbreak, but in other domains as well. This is partly related to so-called American exceptionalism, which presumes that US values, political system, and history are worthy of universal admiration. It indicates that the US is both destined and entitled to play a distinct role at the world stage. This provides the US with a pretext to promote its global hegemony, set double standards and meddle in internal affairs of other countries.
When dealing with countries like China, whose ideology and political system are totally different from those in the West, the double standards imposed by the US tend to be more severe.
As the world’s only superpower, Washington is supposed to shoulder more responsibility during a global health emergency. It should be providing more health-care material aid and proactively leading or organizing international cooperation. At the very least, the US should maintain neutrality toward the outbreak and show sympathy toward the people suffering from the epidemic, rather than add insult to injury.
The Global Times theorized that U.S. “prejudice” could be why it challenges the accuracy of coronavirus information released by China, speculated that offers of assistance could be a pretext for American troops to conduct “military missions to detect China’s capabilities in biochemical research,” muttered about links between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the military, and concluded by wondering if Washington isn’t delivering all the help it was racist to offer because of President Trump’s selfish and xenophobic “America First” policy.
The dangerous thing about all this political spin is that it goes beyond the Chinese Communist Party nursing its wounded pride. The Chinese are desperate to get normal travel and commerce flowing again, no matter the risks posed to foreign populations by the Wuhan coronavirus.
International organizations are reluctant to provoke Beijing’s ire by openly accusing it of providing false information about the number of infections and deaths. China is trying to leverage that reluctance and force the rest of the world to embrace its political narratives about the epidemic, but the cold, hard truth is that most of the world knows it would be much safer to wait for independent confirmation that the epidemic really is receding.
At the moment, roughly ten percent of the immense Chinese population is living under some form of quarantine or lockdown. Reports of high-profile deaths continue to accumulate even as Chinese officials insist the situation is under control, and the deaths include a disturbing number of healthy young victims, not the ailing old people that are supposed to be most at risk.
The latest tragedy is a report on Tuesday that Chinese film director Chang Kai and his entire family in the city of Wuhan were wiped out by the coronavirus. Chang was 55 years old. He lived long enough to see his father and mother die, and write a letter to his friends that said, “Farewell to those I love, and to those who loved me.”
The Chinese Communist Party can hurl all the insults it wants, but the world has good reason to doubt that the full story of the Wuhan coronavirus has been told, and good reason to believe the continued good health of foreigners is not at the top of the Party’s list of priorities.