Hayward: China Demands Apology from U.S. for Coronavirus Response

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping talks by video with patients and medical workers at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. China's president visited the center of the global virus outbreak Tuesday as Italy began …
Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP

China’s propaganda effort to reframe the coronavirus outbreak as a triumph for communism continued on Monday with an editorial in the state-run Global Times demanding an apology from the United States for its criticism of how Beijing handled the disease and hectoring the U.S. government for its own response.

Judging by the latest Global Times screed, the Chinese are still obsessed with Wall Street Journal opinion writer Walter Russell Mead referring to China as the “sick man of Asia” during the darkest days of the Wuhan outbreak:

Amid China’s fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, some US elites have used it as an opportunity to engage in slanderous behavior by claiming the virus was a biochemical weapon, while others have claimed that China is the “real sick man of Asia.”

Recently, a US TV host asked for a formal apology from China. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has again accused China of providing imperfect data, suggesting it “has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve.”

I am extremely disappointed with these US elites. The source of the virus has yet to be determined. In January, to prevent COVID-19 from spreading around world, China locked down a city with a population of more than 10 million. 

At the expense of economic growth, China advised more than 1 billion people to remain indoors, a move that effectively curbed the epidemic and offered the world valuable data and experience. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other countries have praised China’s efforts and joined hands to help fight the epidemic.

“The source of the virus has yet to be determined” is a reference to the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly feverish conspiracy theories that the Wuhan virus came from somewhere else, and was perhaps even created by American scientists as a biological weapon to cripple the rising Asian superpower. These speculations have been picked up by Iran and modified into an even more bizarre theory that Israeli scientists created an even more dangerous strain of the Wuhan virus and used it as a weapon against the Iranian regime.

The Global Times accused the U.S. of bringing the 2008 financial crisis back by failing to take effective measures against the virus, which had infected fewer than 500 people and caused 26 fatalities on American soil as of Tuesday morning. Chinese propagandists are most likely harping on the 2008 crisis because U.S. media invoked it to describe Monday’s 2,000-point drop on the Dow Jones, a sell-off that was caused by both coronavirus-related disruptions that have little to do with the United States and the oil price war launched by Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

The Global Times mixed the financial crisis in with a parade of other alleged U.S. horrors into a distracting shriek of annoyance that boiled down to: how dare you blame China for unleashing a global pandemic when you’ve made so many mistakes?

Why does the US government fail to comply with international rules? Why has it launched unilateralist military, trade, and financial wars against other countries? Have you ever thought about how the existing world order based on international trade, economic, financial, and political rules was built at the expense of millions of soldiers during World War II? US policymakers should also apologize to those victims!

The US founding fathers hoped the country would be humble, pursue freedom, call for unity, and contribute to the well-being of every American and all of humanity. But how are you conducting yourselves now? US politicians today should apologize to the great American founders!

Of course, I should apologize to my US friends who I have no intention of offending. The US has made great contributions to human progress throughout history. And the country is home to several admirable heroes. Let us respect and learn from them. Let us stand together to fight the virus – our common enemy!

Another Global Times editorial on Tuesday built on that theme of “stop blaming us for letting the virus loose and join us to fight this common foe,” which is reminiscent of the “Let us not bicker and argue about who killed who” scene after the wedding party massacre in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

According to the Chinese Communists, it has become international media malpractice to even suggest Beijing’s image might be tarnished by Wuhan virus:

Instead of making an all-out effort to fight the coronavirus, some countries in the West have exploited the crisis to attack China’s prevention measures, which are proving more than effective. And now that the virus has now gone global, some mainstream Western media have shifted their attacks to focus on China’s “damaged” international image. 

As the first country fully mobilized to fight the virus, China has without doubt set an example for the world to follow. China’s image as a responsible world power has been further strengthened, rather than dented.

China has curbed the transmission of the virus with its decisive and effective measures, that have helped other countries buy time to prepare for their own fight. It has borne the cost of locking down a city, an unprecedented halt of economic activity and massive school closures. These measures have enabled China to dramatically lower the number of new confirmed cases.  

Instead, it is everyone who criticizes China that has “tarnished” themselves, as if paying attention to the Communist Party’s deadly malfeasance in the early days of the outbreak somehow interferes with preparing an effective disaster response:

It is the US and a few other countries that have truly damaged their image.

They have misused the time China bought for them by blaming China for so-called “delays” during the initial stage of the outbreak.  A full month after the beginning of the out-break in China, the US still has not yet equipped itself with sufficient and reliable testing kits, missing the opportunity to identify cases and curbing the spread of the virus. Large public events and rallies are still being held in the US, despite the risk of mass infection. 

A number of US politicians and officials have now put themselves in voluntary quarantine after attending a conference and coming into close contact with an infected person. Ironically, a lot of vitriol aimed at China’s virus measures was heard at the Conservative Political Action Conference.   

This suggests the Chinese Communist Party has noticed the ghoulish glee on left-wing media over the coronavirus case at CPAC.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday published the latest account of how the secrecy, paranoia, and incompetence of the Chinese Communist Party helped the coronavirus explode out of Wuhan and rampage across the world. No amount of whining about decade-old unrelated events should be enough to help Beijing escape culpability for how badly the initial response to the outbreak was bungled, including the vicious persecution of doctors who tried to raise important early alarms.

The WSJ report specifically refuted China’s new narrative about how it “bought time for the rest of the world,” describing how “a series of early missteps, dating back to the very first patients, were compounded by political leaders who dragged their feet to inform the public of the risks and to take decisive control measures.”

The report noted that even China’s own epidemiologists agree that their government’s mania for controlling politically-damaging information and its callous disregard for the lives of the Chinese poor contributed to an explosion of infections that rapidly escaped Wuhan to spread across the rest of its province, then the rest of China and the outside world.

This malfeasance was most certainly not limited to a few easily-scapegoated local idiots in Wuhan:

When doctors did learn enough to sound the alarm, their efforts were stymied as the crisis became enmeshed in politics, both at the local and national level.

It now appears that, based on a speech by Mr. Xi published in a Communist Party magazine in February, he was leading the epidemic response when Wuhan went ahead with New Year celebrations despite the risk of wider infections. He was also leading the response when authorities let some five million people leave Wuhan without screening, and when they waited until Jan. 20 to announce the virus was spreading between humans.

As a result, the virus spread much more widely than it might have by the time Beijing locked down Wuhan and three other cities on Jan. 23, in the biggest quarantine in history. Those and other later measures appear to have slowed the spread within China’s borders, but the global consequences of the early missteps have been severe.

The most famous early whistleblower in Wuhan was Dr. Li Wenliang, who was punished and humiliated for “spreading rumors” that contradicted the Communist Party line, and later died from the virus despite being young and seemingly healthy before he contracted it. 

Human rights groups around the world on Monday blasted China for failing to investigate Li’s persecution and death as they promised to do when his death – and the Communist Party’s clumsy efforts to conceal it – caused massive public outrage last month. The Chinese government never even got around to clearing Li’s record of “rumor-mongering” charges, even though it posthumously reinvented him as a fallen hero who died along with many other medical personnel fighting the virus.

Few of those human rights advocates expect China to actually provide the thorough investigation it promised, expecting a whitewash at best. Endless delay of the investigation is more likely as Beijing puts its efforts into peddling the new narrative of heroic China saving the world from the coronavirus.

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