COVID checks on Chinese travelers lay bare Western hypocrisy, extreme bad faith
Published: Jan 04, 2023 07:55 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/Global Times

Illustration: Xia Qing/Global Times

In the closing days of 2022, starting with the US, numerous Western aligned countries began mandating that Chinese travelers undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test on arrival. Following China's decision to relax its dynamic zero-COVID policy, which the Western mainstream media viciously attacked, they spared no hesitation in jumping straight toward pushing mass hysteria over COVID-19 outbreaks in China, talking up fears of so-called "new variants" and claiming Beijing "lacked transparency." 

Such attacks have been purely political, as medical experts believed that COVID-19 checks on travelers from China were not necessary and would make no difference to the rise or fall of cases in their countries.

The manner of coverage in the Western mainstream media is of course very familiar. 

From the very beginning of the pandemic to the present day, China has been demonized wholesale by Western media and politicians for every single decision it has made, no matter what the circumstances or outcome. 

It is not misleading or an overstatement to say that as such, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the single most weaponized disease outbreak in modern history, which has been used to repeatedly demonize and attack a specific country with the view to advancing American foreign policy goals. From the beginning of the pandemic, to speculations about its origins, to questions over vaccines, to zero-COVID, and now to opening, the manner of reporting has been nothing short of extreme bad faith.

And the hypocrisy manifested in this latest turn in coverage has been enormous. For at least a year now, Western countries have long decided that COVID-19 is "over," and moved to policy approaches which effectively pretend the pandemic does not exist, despite the horrific toll it has taken on their own populations. 

In the summer of 2021, the British government declared "freedom day" and vowed to do away with all COVID-19 restrictions in catering to populist sentiment. The mood in America, where about 1.1 million people (0.3 percent of the entire population) has died of COVID-19, is similar. Restrictions are bad, and the rhetoric of shifting away from the virus has emphasized freedom and economic growth. To these countries, COVID-19 might as well as not exist anymore.

That is, until China comes into the picture. With China having adjusted its epidemic management approach, the US, among others, have conveniently remembered that COVID-19 exists again, and despite the horrifically high death tolls in their countries, which never seemed to bother them previously, they have immediately jumped toward using China again to weaponize the pandemic, pursue political point scoring and fear-mongering. 

US officials have deliberately used cynical language such as a "lack of transparency." While the Centre for Disease Control also raised the alarm about "potential new variants." These same politicians not even a month ago were relentlessly criticizing China's dynamic zero-COVID policy as supposedly being oppressive. 

The utilization of China to spark fears about a virus or disease is motivated by underlining racism and xenophobia which is part of a discourse known as "Yellow Peril." 

Despite the reality that Western countries have suffered high losses and failed to manage the pandemic effectively, it is beneficial and convenient to "deflect" political responsibility pertaining to a disease outbreak on a foreign "other" which can be construed as "backward" or "uncivilized." While these prejudices were much more explicit in the past, in the modern era they are often veiled with an ideological façade of anti-communism, concealing obvious prejudices for China behind a dislike of its political system. 

Thus, the US is still able to weaponize this sentiment through "dog whistle" terms such as "lack of transparency" or "new variants."

In doing this, politicians seek opportunities to win support by showing hostility toward China. While of course travel restrictions earlier in the pandemic were a legitimate and appropriate measure which were widely implemented, the hypocrisy and insincerity of such decisions is visible through the fact one country is being singled out and targeted, despite politicians having also said previously COVID-19 was no longer threatening or harmful and it was time to "move on." 

This shows, as has been the case throughout the pandemic as a whole, that the real goal is to use COVID-19 again and again to target China in a hostile, discriminatory and defamatory manner. Western countries themselves have done very little to fight COVID-19 and long given up, yet have spared no effort in attacking China at every step of the way. 

The author is a political and historical relations analyst. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn