Chinese state media continued their efforts this week to mitigate political damage from the coronavirus epidemic by claiming Western concerns about the spread of the disease, and complaints about China’s lack of transparency, are founded in “xenophobia” and “white supremacist racism” reminiscent of the “Yellow Peril” hysteria of the late 19th Century.
“The U.S. travel restrictions on China and criticism of China’s quarantine strategy to contain the COVID-19 have been seen as a racist politicization of the epidemic,” China’s state-run Global Times declared on Wednesday, without demonstrating that anyone other than themselves sees the situation that way.
The Chinese Communist paper went on to attack American health care, presumably to distract from the mounting horror stories about how China is dealing with the epidemic. To the Global Times, it is healthy America that is trying to distract the rest of the world from China’s narrative of the epidemic:
The US is the only major country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare to its citizens as a human right. It’s estimated about 30,000 people in the US die every year because they can’t afford medical treatment, according to Physicians for a National Health Program. In the midst of such an incomplete system, it is unfortunately easy to understand why there are so many deaths from the seasonal flu.
To distract from this travesty, it is easy to understand why the US corporate media, with similar profit motivations as the drug and pharmaceutical companies, would rather sensationalize COVID-19 than adequately focus on domestic health disasters. Fear helps generate profit and distracts Americans from understanding the social problems around them.
After once again quoting politically useful praise from the World Health Organization (WHO) – itself under scrutiny for prioritizing good relations with Beijing over frank discussions of the coronavirus threat – the Global Times claimed “bigotry” and “imperialism” are the only reasons China gets hassled about health crises that are covered without “compassion” by Western media:
The yellow peril stereotype, borrowed from Europe by American white supremacist writers in the 19th century, has long affected the Western cultural psyche. The idea that “sneaky Asians” would destroy Western nations became a racist trope used to justify hostility toward societies exploited by colonization and imposed underdevelopment. This explains modern-day delusions from US Senator Tom Cotton about biological warfare.
In spite of that chronic underdevelopment however, China has come a long way since achieving sovereignty. Though ever-evolving and still in development, China’s healthcare system has worked to deliver free medical treatment to all COVID-19 patients. The government constructed a COVID-19 focused improvised hospital within 10 days. The lockdown of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak in Central China’s Hubei Province, has allowed for the first decline in new cases in weeks. Taking decisive steps has helped China, and specifically Wuhan, repel initial mistakes and help stabilize the virus outbreak.
An even more heated Global Times screed on Tuesday accused American politicians, corporations, and media of using the coronavirus story to “promote white supremacist racism and the advantage of their political system” by “fabricating” a treat from China against the free world.
This story included China’s latest obsessive mention of influenza deaths in the United States, a talking point that ignores the fact that the coronavirus turned out to be much more dangerous than the flu and far more dangerous than the Chinese Communist Party was willing to admit until recently.
The Global Times folded the coronavirus into Beijing’s standard political narrative that jealous Western powers, especially the United States, are peddling “conspiracy theories” and “bashing China” to thwart its ascension to great power status. This particular iteration of the Beijing narrative included a veiled threat that “attempts to force China into a downfall will backfire” because so much of the global industrial chain runs through China, thanks to decades of globalism.
The Global Times was especially contemptuous of prominent China critics like White House adviser Peter Navarro and Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, all of whom the Chinese paper comically branded as “neoconservatives”:
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro once described China as a “disease incubator,” a claim regarded by many as racist and beyond the moral baseline of human civilization.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton has repeatedly slammed the Communist Party of China over the coronavirus outbreak and claimed the virus is “a man-made bioweapon that leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai dismissed to the biological weapons theory as “absolutely crazy,” and warned such allegations could stir up suspicion, rumors, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and could “harm our joint efforts to combat the virus.”
Cotton’s allegation has been largely debunked by biological experts quoted in the media including the Washington Post and the Guardian.
A Huffington Post story titled “Don’t listen to Sen. Tom Cotton about Coronavirus,” writes that “spreading misinformation and panic in a weeks-long meltdown over the disease” by quoting multiple experts saying his assertion is “ridiculous.”
“Tom Cotton is far more dangerous than the Coronavirus,” a Twitter user commented on Cotton’s anti-China tweet.
The latter slam on Cotton is amusing not just because the Global Times thinks one random Twitter user can humble a senator, but because Chinese readers of the Global Times cannot access Twitter legally since their government bans the platform.
As for Senator Rubio, he annoyed the Chinese Communists by accusing the World Health Organization of being unduly concerned with Beijing’s feelings instead of pulling out all the stops to combat the coronavirus, and he wants WHO to extend membership status to Taiwan, a move bitterly opposed by China because it would confer national legitimacy on what the Chinese see as a rogue province.
“Rubio has an emotional affinity with, in additional to financial support of, Taiwan, because they both have a tendency to betray their homeland,” sneered a Chinese academic quoted by the Global Times. By “Rubio’s homeland,” he meant Cuba, the Communist nation from which Rubio’s family fled.
The Global Times castigated U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for supposedly welcoming the coronavirus epidemic as an opportunity to reclaim American jobs lost to China, and American businessman Kyle Bass expressing a wish to “let the Chinese virus rampage through the ranks of the Global Times and the rest of the Communist Party.”
As usual, the Chinese state paper left out some important context: Ross began by expressing condolences for the coronavirus and saying he did not want to “talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” but he thought business leaders would take note of the pattern of disease epidemics disrupting Chinese supply chains.
Bass later deleted his tweet because he “felt that it was too harsh for the rank-and-file” employees of the Global Times, but he said the paper itself was still a “simple belligerent tabloid designed to stir controversy with western media and commentators,” and he insisted he would never apologize to a Chinese regime that proved itself a “disgrace to humanity” by arresting and punishing early whistleblowers on the Wuhan virus such as the late Dr. Li Wenliang.
China’s remorseless efforts to spin the coronavirus epidemic to its advantage, frequently using bits of rhetoric it gleans from American politicians and media – like the constant attacks on the U.S. healthcare system launched by Democrats seeking to take control of it – are unlikely to convince people around the world who can see with their own eyes that Beijing concealed the damaging truth about the epidemic for as long as it could, at a cost to the rest of the world that would be much greater without the travel restrictions China despises.