Blame game diminishes Western appeal to Chinese people

By Zhang Weiwei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/9 10:04:10

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." This is a famous line from Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Unfortunately, it is exactly what the current US administration and a number of other Western politicians are trying to do. Blaming China for the spread of COVID-19 is such a lie. As all kinds of unscientific speculations, unfounded accusations and lies spread, the West is relinquishing its soft power. Here are four facts people need to know. 

Fact No. 1: It should be the national government, rather than a foreign government, to take responsibility for the health of its own citizens

There have been numerous discussions about the roles and functions of governments, none of which say a national government should be responsible for a public health crisis in a foreign country. The basic functions of governments include safeguarding national security and providing well-being to their citizens. To this end, governments have the right to collect taxes, maintain armies and police forces and formulate laws and regulations citizens must not break. All of these can only take effect within the country's boundary and under the government's administration. Therefore, handling a public health crisis falls under the responsibilities of a national government.

Fact No. 2: Tracing the origin of a virus is a scientific work 

Recently, a team at the French Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine in Saint-Denis declared that they found evidence to show one patient admitted in December 2019 was infected with COVID-19. This shows the virus was already circulating in Europe in late December 2019. Earlier, autopsy results showed two Californians died of COVID-19 in early and mid-February, pushing the first US coronavirus death weeks before previously thought. Some Americans, including Michael Melham, mayor of Belleville, New Jersey, suspected that they were down with the virus in late November 2019, and Melham was recently tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. Data from Canada's largest provinces showed American travelers, rather than Chinese, brought the virus to the country. Furthermore, Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases said that judging from the mutation of the virus prevalent in Japan today, the second round of infections in this country was more likely brought by European and American travelers.

It will surely be a difficult and time-consuming job to trace the origin of the virus. The true meaning of such a job is to defend against similar outbreaks in the future. It is only scientific research, not political maneuvers, which will finally reduce health risks for mankind.

Fact No. 3: National debts are essentially international legal obligations, and breaching them will lead to fundamental harm to sovereign reputations. 

China is the second-largest foreign holder of US government debt, which is an important form to fund US government spending and deficit. Throughout modern history, countries, especially those which consider themselves great powers, value their national reputation and credit. Whether a country can pay back its debts as agreed will determine the prospects of its further borrowing. Therefore, no country would easily venture the degrading of its national reputation by simply cancelling its national debt. Unilaterally cancelling one's own debt, no matter what excuse, will put the country's currency and financial market under heavy risk. The ensuing economic losses may be bigger than the originally cancelled debt. 

Fact No. 4: The West will severely lose its appeal to Chinese society if it continues with the current blame game.

China has been learning from Western civilizations ever since the early 20th century. "Mr Democracy" and "Mr Science" were then regarded by Chinese revolutionary pioneers as the beacon of hope to lift the ancient civilization from backwardness. In recent years, more and more Chinese families have been sending their children to Western universities because they see Western education as a better choice. However, what ordinary Chinese see from the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak is not a "better" Western practice, but a West which is giving up its previous soft power and breaking the bottom lines of integrity, honesty, scientific thinking and rule of law. Some Chinese even compared the recent China-bashing offensive to the Eight-Nation Alliance invading China in 1900. If such a condition continues, it is almost certain that Chinese people will find the West less and less attractive.

People say COVID-19 will be a game-changer. The way Chinese people look at the West will probably be one. Lies told a thousand times remain lies. In the face of an unknown virus, no government is prepared enough. But the important thing is we admit our limits and faults, and join hands to fight the real enemy.

The author is associate research fellow at China Institute of International Studies. 


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