China: Vast Underreporting of Wuhan Death Toll Normal, ‘Not a Political Problem’

China's President Xi Jinping listens to Japans Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 23, 2019. (Photo by Noel CELIS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
NOEL CELIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese state media on Friday admitted the death toll from the coronavirus in Wuhan had to be “rectified” by admitting to 1,290 more deaths – an increase of about fifty percent – but insisted it was merely a paperwork adjustment unrelated to mounting global anger with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its extravagant and dangerous lies about the pandemic.

The CCP’s Global Times shrugged the additional deaths off as a “responsible correction in accordance with laws and regulations” and saluted the announcement as a heartwarming “consolation to the people who died in this epidemic and their families.”

As far as China’s propagandists are concerned, this little 50 percent adjustment should put an end to politicized allegations that the CCP has been lying about the virus, even though the new revised death toll remains almost as mathematically absurd as the old one:

Recently, the public opinion sphere alleged the concealment of death tolls by the authorities, and some in the West spared no effort in hyping this speculation. Wuhan was not affected by these claims but carried out its reviews and corrections based on infectious disease prevention and control laws. Adhering to the facts is top priority.

The strict review and correction of the death toll means there is no room for deliberate concealment. Speculation that China falsified the death toll from the coronavirus is far from truth. Some people thought so because they did not understand the work procedures used during China’s virus fight, while others just adopted a malicious attitude toward China.

The Global Times dismissed the previous inaccuracies as understandable mistakes made by an “overwhelmed” medical system, forgetting that other loads of ridiculous CCP propaganda claim the entire nation of 1.4 billion people had fewer than 82,000 infections and Wuhan’s Hubei province (population 58 million) only had 68,000 of them, a caseload that would not overwhelm any reasonably advanced medical system to the point where merely counting the patients became impossible.

The Chinese state paper then resorted to the standard CCP tactic of claiming the rest of the world has no moral or practical grounds for criticizing how Beijing handled the coronavirus and hilariously claimed lying is illegal in China, so no one could have cooked the books – forgetting, once again, that previous CCP propaganda loudly accused Wuhan officials of doing exactly that:

It can also be inferred that the death tolls in most countries hit hard by the pandemic won’t be very accurate. Many COVID-19 patients will die of complications. It’s likely that data collection will be chaotic, since the cause of death in each case could be made wrong. 

This is not a political problem, but rather a technical issue concerning the organization and management of the disease-fighting effort. But some people have questioned the number of COVID-19 deaths in China for political reasons and politicized the data. That is how it has become a sensitive issue.

As the first country that launched a nationwide mobilization against the novel coronavirus, even a relatively low death toll would be viewed as a big number. People in Wuhan bore huge pain and losses at the peak of the epidemic, which numbers alone don’t describe. A statistical system was eventually set up, but underreporting the death toll would benefit nobody. The political and legal risks of such action would be unbearable. 

China is not a country where one can fabricate data in complete disregard of the law. Everybody knows it is a crime to maliciously fabricate data that concerns the whole nation. Doing so also has to involve the coordination of multiple departments and people, but such a scheme can be easily exposed. It can be said that ill-intended data manipulation can’t occur in today’s China.

The Global Times is pushing this argument only a few days after the bombshell revelation of internal documents that proved the central government deliberately withheld information about the coronavirus to avoid an embarrassing cancellation of Lunar New Year events, one of which was a gigantic banquet in Wuhan that had tens of thousands of attendees. This secrecy indisputably cost thousands of lives in Wuhan, across China, and around the world.

The world has seen this kind of deadly dishonesty from China before. The CCP did exactly the same thing during the SARS epidemic of the early 2000s: hide the disease for as long as possible, dramatically downplay the number of infections and deaths once the outbreak could no longer be hidden, and then gradually “adjust” the numbers upward under intense pressure from outside analysts who knew the official counts were garbage.

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