Beijing has been bending over backward trying to convince the world that the United States is the real culprit behind the quickly spreading virus that’s already claimed more than 4,600 lives across the globe.
It’s a high-stakes strategy for the Asian nation fighting to keep its superpower status amid a national lockdown and palpable anger over claims that Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus, at first covered it up, triggering a worldwide health and economic crisis.
The Chinese government has already published a book in English — with translations in the works in French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic — touting its handling of the deadly disease.
“A Battle Against Epidemic: China Combatting COVID-19 in 2020” is a mishmash of glowing state media reports on the accomplishments of President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party and the dominance of the Chinese system in fighting the crisis.
At best, China’s aggressive new campaign can be chalked up to ambitious propaganda. At its worst, it’s a reckless display from a country that has actively misled the world while working overtime to save its own skin, foreign affairs expert Gordon G. Chang told Fox News.
Chang believes Beijing has been laying the groundwork for a PR attack against the United States for more than a month, first by throwing doubt on the origin of COVID-19 and second, by slamming America’s handling of previous diseases like the swine flu, which decimated China’s pork industry.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted that the U.S. military might have brought the coronavirus to Wuhan.
“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao said.
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
A few days earlier, Lin Songtian, China’s ambassador to South Africa, said: “Although the epidemic first broke out in China, it did not necessarily mean that the virus is originated from China, let alone ‘made in China.'”
Although the epidemic first broke out in China, it did not necessarily mean that the virus is originated from China, let alone “made in China”. pic.twitter.com/EVXLkQnyfF— Chinese Ambassador to South Africa (@AmbLINSongtian) March 7, 2020
Vague and misleading statements like the one from Lin are ripped right out of China’s propaganda playbook and attempt to sow doubt about the global crisis.
Chinese officials have also pushed back on the expression “Wuhan coronavirus” — saying the name used frequently by U.S. conservative commentators unfairly stigmatizes the world’s most populous country.
Chang said it’s just another tactic in China’s playbook, carefully choreographed to make Americans look petty and racist.
“This an all-out assault on the United States,” Chang said.