GOP 'Attack China' playbook, earlier virus deaths hint at larger US disinformation campaign

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/25 16:16:56 Last Updated: 2020/4/25 22:13:48

'Attack China' playbook, early deaths hint at Washington cover-up

The US Capitol building is seen in Washington D.C. April 19, 2020. Photo:Xinhua

Washington owes the world an explanation as more evidence shows Republicans plotting a political farce called the "Attack China" campaign for the November elections. They are doing this to shift the blame onto China to cover up their own domestic and Republican Party failures in handling the coronavirus crisis - and even as the timeline of early outbreaks and reported cases in the US now need to be revised.  

While the US has become the epicenter of the globe outbreaks and continued its disinformation campaign against China, hence casting a shadow over the joint efforts to combat the disease, Chinese experts have called for the World Health Organization (WHO) to start a scientific probe in the US to understand how the virus spread and why it became the country with the highest confirmed cases. This all happened amidst chaotic policies in the US that politicized the pandemic and made the US government the No.1 culprit for global coronavirus misery.

American news outlet Politico on Friday published an internal US National Republican Senatorial Committee 57-page memo written by political consulting firm Brett O'Donnell that openly "Attacks China" as a tactic for this November 3rd's general election.

Brett O'Donnell advises notorious hawks such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, both of whom vehemently abuse China over COVID-19 with crack-pot conspiracy theories.

They now owe the world an explanation for this insidious smear campaign which covers up their own malfeasance in handling the coronavirus crisis and instead blames China, experts say.

This disgusting playbook of the National Republican Senatorial Committee outlines how Republican, or Grand Old Party (GOP), candidates should relentlessly use propaganda messaging of "Don't Defend Trump, attack China" over the coronavirus crisis.  

The memo also stressed three main lines of anti-China assault messages: "China caused the virus by 'covering it up,'" "Democrats are 'soft on China,'" and "Republicans will push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic."

"This is unbelievable that such a calculated plot could be openly announced, which also shows that GOP hawks don't even care about maintaining or fixing China-US relations, which have been worsening but were overall stable," Yuan Zheng, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times on Saturday. 

The memo is part of a choreographed scheme of US Republicans in scapegoating and defaming China amid the outbreak. The purpose: everything is for November elections, and pass the buck to China so no one could blame them for the outbreaks in the US, observers said. Such inside messages for the GOP surfaced at the same time when US media reported that new autopsy results showed a Californian died from the COVID-19 three weeks before the previously known first US death caused by the virus back in February. This has sparked doubts over transparency inside the US government in dealing with the virus in early stages of the outbreak. 

CNN reported on Wednesday that a 57-year-old woman died from COVID-19 in Santa Clara County in northern California on February 6, and a 69-year-old man died for the same reason at home in the same county on February 17 - but the US "officially" reported the country's first coronavirus death on February 29. New research from Northwestern University showed that the true number of people across New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle have reached 28,000 by March 1 when the official data only revealed 23 cases, according to media reports.

"California's latest report on deaths with no travel history to China is a piece of evidence to revise the whole timeline of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US. Also, the latest research from Northwestern University could help predict that the actual outbreaks in the country were earlier than reported at a certain scale," Song Qinghui, a Shenzhen-based economist who closely follows the situation from an economic statistic perspective, told the Global Times.

Cody said they presume that each of California's deaths caught the virus through community spread, the media report said. Yang Zhanqiu, a Wuhan-based virologist, said this shows there might be multiple places as origins of the virus.

Over the past three months, instead of responding to the outbreaks in a rational and collective way, the Trump administration has been constantly flip-flopping on its policies, ignoring advice from medical professionals and coming up with willful blindness, groundless accusations, xenophobia and racist comments. It has avoided culpability by scapegoating the WHO, China, and its own domestic political opponents. In so doing, it is turning a blind eye toward the global community, including WHO, medical doctors and experts who are calling for an end to the politicization of COVID-19. 

Michael Caputo, the new spokesman for the US Department of Health and Human Services, made racist and derogatory comments about Chinese people in a series of now-deleted tweets, CNN reported on Thursday. Caputo tweeted that Chinese "suck the blood out of rabid bats as an appetizer and eat the ass out of anteaters." These were instantly considered crazy and unbelievable to social network users.

"The virus is our common enemy. I think it's necessary to call for a scientific probe inside the US to look into those unclear issues of its transmission," Jin Canrong, associate dean of Renmin University of China's School of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Saturday, rebutting those groundless and malicious accusations targeting China. 

This is especially important to do since the US political ecosystem has been faltering with distorted facts in recent years, Jin said, noting that by contrast, the WHO conducted a probe in China for more than 10 days in February, coming up with a detailed report. 

"The US, however, still has many questions unanswered." 

Medical workers carry a patient into an ambulance in New York, the United States, April 6, 2020. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)

Timeline to be revised 

"It's not even strange that the GOP came up with such a memo, which is in line with their stances on China-related issues. Their purpose is clear: using China's handling of COVID-19 as a center topic for the upcoming elections and continuing to defame China to gain more votes," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Saturday. 

Contrary to the praise of China's handling of the outbreak by US President Donald Trump on January 24, GOP lawmaker Rick Scott from Florida called it a threat from China later. This was echoed by other senators like Cotton in February 2020, who came up with conspiracy theories that the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan. 

A rising tide of critics on social media slammed today's "Cold War" mentality inside certain circles of the US government as "insane," claiming that the US government is willing to let its own people die rather than be seen as being helped by China. Even China's generous donations of medical supplies to the US were attacked by some as propaganda in op-ed articles in the New York Times. This arrogance and negligence by select Washington elites reflects a rapid decline of decorum in American politics.

When US hawks continue attacking China for allegedly "causing pain to the world," they really must take responsible reflections of their own words and come clean - not reiterate lies that fall flat in the face of evidence. 

However, they were also a slap in the face to US politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who pointed to research showing that strains of the novel coronavirus entered New York from Europe, not China. Gov. Cuomo also said that travel bans enacted by President Trump were too late to halt its spread, according to Reuters.

"For the timeline, it is connected to the earliest deaths of COVID-19 in the US, so it is not just Chinese scientists like myself who have questions about who was the real patient zero in the country," Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times.

"The US public and experts also hope that the US Federal government will provide a clear answer," he said.

Washington's passive handling of the outbreak, which has caused so far more than 900,000 cases in the US, also weighs on the global prospects of combating this major crisis. 

"Why has the Fort Detrick laboratory that had been shut down not been reopened? What happened with the vaping-related lung illnesses in the US and their relations with the coronavirus? And also the influenza patients. Were they killed by influenza, or something different?" Jin asked. 

Fort Detrick laboratory, which handled high-level diseases, such as Ebola, in Fredrick, Maryland, was shut after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a cease and desist order to the organization in July 2019, according to local media.

The suspension was due to multiple causes, including failure to follow local procedures and a lack of periodic recertification training for workers in the bio-containment laboratories. The wastewater decontamination system of the lab also failed to meet standards set by the Federal Select Agent Program, which sparked doubts and calls for the US government to release information on the matter. So far, they have not. 

Even before the outbreak in China occurred, seasonal influenza hit the US badly and killed many people in 2019.  US CDC director Robert Redfield acknowledged in March that some flu patients might have been misdiagnosed, who actually contracted coronavirus, which Chinese experts deemed as the proof of US hypocrisy as the Trump administration keeps the American public in the dark over the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump discusses the pandemic at the White House's James Brady Press Briefing Room on Friday in Washington, DC. Photo: AP

'Turning up Cold War'

The US independent news site The Grayzone recently released an article showing how pro-Trump media mainstreamed the Chinese lab coronavirus conspiracy theory "by claiming the virus escaped from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology." 

Max Blumenthal, an award-winning journalist and founder of The Grayzone, explained that one of the sources for this fake feed in a recent story was named Xiao Qiang. "He was quoted as a research scientist, but I thought that sounds funny. A research scientist, this is not a virologist, someone who studies viruses. This is not an epidemiologist who studies epidemics. I immediately assumed that this person was a Chinese dissident," he told the Global Times.

Xiao was found out to be supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, which was created by the CIA under the Reagan administration to support opposition movements, like the unrest in Hong Kong, Blumenthal said, giving an example of how the US media pushes anti-China narratives and relevant conspiracy theories as mainstream. 

"Now it is a political campaign to turn up the new Cold War and to advance Donald Trump's national security doctrine that his defense secretary James Mattis introduced in 2018, where the Defense Department declared that the US was moving from the war on terror into a great power competition with China and Russia," he said.

Considering the US government's missteps and failure to handle the outbreak while passing the buck to China, more scientists urged a scientific probe into the US due to lack of transparency and efficiency inside Washington which also hinders the overall combat against the pandemic.

"We should call on scientists from WHO and other countries to join hands and focus on comprehensive investigations and comparisons of the severely affected areas, including the US and Italy, to determine the origin of the new coronavirus," Yang said.

Newspaper headline: US virus timeline in serious doubt


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