Western propaganda against China on COVID-19 is a two-faced farce
Published: Jan 05, 2023 08:22 PM
Habitual fault finder. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Habitual fault finder. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Comedian Trevor Noah once satirized the way Western mainstream media would tell the story of a church bombing - a popular joke on Chinese social media - "Middle Easterner does something, they are a terrorist. Black person does something, they are a thug. But if a white guy walks into a church killing nine people dead, the first thing they always say is it's mental instability."

It's a good one - as funny as it is sharp, and clearly exposes a Western media narrative laden with prejudice and bigotry. The most shameful and ludicrous display of it recently is the coverage of China's COVID-19 response over the past three years. 

A comedy Two-Faced

For someone following Western mainstream news on COVID policies in China and the West, the sudden flip-flop in tones is so abrupt as to be risible. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, when China was taking robust actions in some cities to contain infection, The New York Times was ostensibly "concerned" for the Chinese people, "its campaign has come at great cost to people's livelihoods and personal liberties". But when Italy went into lockdown, the NYT found it imperative, "Italy is locking down [...] risking its economy in an effort to contain Europe's worst coronavirus outbreak."

Before the US reported cases, the left-leaning newspaper, under a fake sense of moral superiority, lectured that "China's shutdown would be patently unconstitutional in the US." When infections were identified in the US, alas, consigned to oblivion was the constitution. It simply screamed, "Listen to the medical experts. It's time for a national lockdown."

The CNBC eagerly confers on the US the title of "the world's largest vaccine donor", and claims gleefully that it is "way ahead of China", while the New Atlanticist warns China is getting "soft-power gains of prestige and goodwill" and "securing its interests" by donating vaccines. 

When the virus had infected over one million and killed tens of thousands in the US, without any effective resistance from the authorities, The New York Times came out in haste to manufacture a flicker of hope for normal life, quoting historians as saying "the coronavirus pandemic could end socially before it ends medically." It was just as quick to rehash its doomsday narrative when COVID cases increased in China, "The pandemic is a public health crisis" where "government credibility" is at stake. 

When the US CDC stopped publishing daily COVID-19 data, it is a "usual step" and "strategic shift." When the same happens in China, their verdict is "lack of transparency," "irresponsible" and "an attempt to cover up." 

If an American, most likely poor and colored, unfortunately dies of COVID-19, it is framed as an inevitable sacrifice to avoid "democracy declines" from COVID-19 mandates. But COVID fatalities in China are portrayed as the most vulnerable "paying the price." An individual American's tragedy is the fault of anything but the system; in China, nothing but the system is to blame, they say.

If Biden tightens COVID-19 rules, it is to "fix Trump's COVID-19 mess"; if he loosens, it is "effective reopening" to beat recession. When China puts in place health precautionary measures, the Bloomberg says the world should panic, "Global supply chain crisis flares up again." When the measures are withdrawn, it suggests the world is panicking, "China reopening borders leads other countries to restrict entry."  

Or is it a mime?

As much as the big Western media outlets gesture and gesticulate, they have all gone deathly silent on some glaring facts.  

They would not tell us that had COVID-19 not been allowed to spread widely -- and mutate-- in the US and Europe, it would have been difficult to develop global reach. Average Americans have been trudging from one Greek letter to another, Alpha, Beta, Delta and Omicron, taking the infection rate to at least 60 percent by April 2022. 

They are mute on the fact that while China has four times the US population, its COVID death rate is significantly lower that of the US, and that as Americans' average life expectancy dropped from 78.8 years in 2019 to 76.1 in 2021, the figure in China increased 0.9 year to 78.2. 

They struggle to utter a word about how the prejudice communicated in their stories -- and the deep-rooted racial inequality it entrenches -- is proving as deadly as this unknown virus. 

They are keeping mum about the reduced danger of the virus Chinese people face in 2022, which is 20 to 40 times less likely to result in hospitalization or intensive care than the type Americans were exposed to two years ago. They gingerly avoid mentioning that 90 percent of Chinese have been completely vaccinated by the end of 2022 before COVID response measures began to be downgraded, whereas ordinary Americans had not had a single shot in the arm when Trump first campaigned for "Opening Up America Again" in May 2020. 

They are quiet on China's positive GDP growth in 2020 and strong recovery in 2021, which was only possible because China maintained a good balance between containing COVID-19 and keeping economic vigor - all done while the US witnessed its most dramatic plunge in growth since 1946.  

Moral of the play

Like a good theater-goer, we reflect on the play after all the emotions it stirs in us. The theater of absurdity Western mainstream media has carefully staged should bring home the realization that, even though we as human beings like to quibble about our differences, in times of common challenges, banding together is the only right thing to do. 

Back to Trevor, here's how he talked about global cooperation in difficult times, "I thought ... if humans were ever threatened with an existential threat, we would abandon every single fight we were fighting and we would come together to win. No more racism. No more sexism." This should be our reality outside the theater. And, to add to his wish list, no more kangaroo court where there's one law for the West, and another for the rest.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Xinhua News Agency, CGTN, Global Times, China Daily etc. He can be reached atxinping604@gmail.com