China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday ran an editorial ostensibly warning local officials not to “cover up” any resurgence of the Wuhan coronavirus.
The true agenda of the article was to assert the Chinese central government has been completely transparent so far, in the face of mounting allegations to the contrary from around the world.
The beginning of the op-ed admitted that it is a little difficult to believe China’s official assertions that Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province now have zero new cases of local coronavirus transmission. Perhaps sensing that outside observers are having trouble swallowing that claim, the Global Times issued a warning to local officials that was really a thinly-disguised claim the Chinese system makes cover-ups impossible:
We believe that there is absolutely no real room for cover-up in China right now around the new outbreak. Even if top officials of a certain level wants to conceal something, his surroundings and superiors do not have the conditions to cooperate with the cover-up. However, all rules have boundaries, and there are ambiguities around the boundaries. For example, should it be reported to the society as soon as someone has suspected symptoms, or when the case is clearer? And so on. Any hesitation or delay will be questioned as a cover-up because of persistent public concerns about official underreporting.
In order to reassure the public, we believe that the best way is to inform them early and strictly. To be honest, people are not worried about the occasional one or two cases that are very clearly traced. But there is a risk of a cover-up, which leaves a lot of room for imagination. For example, people are now asking if an asymptomatic patient is a confirmed case. Officials should make clear their criteria, lest more doubts linger.
The editorial concluded with an assertion that China was able to bring the massive epidemic under control because it is supposedly the cleanest country on Earth. That’s why no one else has been able to duplicate China’s claimed success against the virus:
Finally, we want to say that China is doing a very good job of prevention and control, and that our society is quite clean, which is probably the only one in the world. The government has the ability to turn the tide when the outbreak in Hubei was spreading, then it surely has the ability to carry on as it is. This is certainly easier to do than in the previous national battle against the epidemic, and it is particularly valuable that the vigilance of the government and the whole society has not been relaxed, and there is no reason for us to fall down again.
Chinese state media have a long habit of claiming other cultures are inferior to Chinese Communism, whose record on all issues is presented as an unblemished string of successes. For example, in early March the Global Times claimed the coronavirus epidemic “shows the world the widening gap between the rich and poor in the U.S.,” while China’s authoritarian system supposedly “has the ability to let all people receive equal and timely assistance.”
The U.S. is the most frequent target of Chinese Communist arrogance, but not the only one. In December, the Global Times responded angrily to comparisons between the economies of China and Brazil by slamming Brazilians as lazy and saddled with an inferior culture.