Propaganda war in the time of Covid-19 epidemic

Propaganda war in the time of Covid-19 epidemicOnce China spread the corona virus around the world and gained initial control of the pandemic at home, Beijing authorities started to launch a disinformation campaign regarding the origin of the said virus. What was strange was that Beijing had mobilized its entire foreign service in this endeavor, stopping at nothing to distribute information of a conspiracy-laden nature.

According to some analysts, the goal of said propaganda campaign is to deny responsibility, libel and direct global hatred towards the US. The campaign was aimed at the US as this was the country with enough power to prevent China’s expansion.

On March 12, 2020, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian commenced this campaign on Twitter by slandering the US military as having brought the corona virus to China, causing a quarrel between the US and China on the issue, which led to the US President calling it the “Chinese virus”.

The latest blow to the US in this campaign came from Paris. In a series of messages on Twitter on March 23, 2020, the Chinese Embassy in France publicly proclaimed that the worldwide havoc-wreaking corona virus actually originated in the US, not from Wuhan (China) as falsely assumed. Such action is considered part of a whole campaign launched by Beijing.

The Chinese Embassy in Paris proposed the hypothesis: “Did the United States not try to pass off pneumonia due to the new coronavirus as flu?”; while raising the question about the “surprise closing last July of the largest American biochemical weapons research centre at the Fort Detrick base in Maryland” and that “After the closure, a series of pneumonia or similar cases appeared in the United States.”

Many observers argue that Beijing has elaborately prepared for this campaign since the Wuhan epidemic outbreak as well as its very well-planned step by step implementation.

Looking back at the timeline, on March 7, 2020, Lin Song Tian, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, released a Twitter message by himself: “studies by scientists from countries like the United States, Europe and Japan show that the source of #COVID19 is still inclusive.

WHO also said the source is still uncertain and stigmatization should be avoided”; and “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”.

The Chinese Embassy in South Africa has set an example for many Chinese diplomatic missions elsewhere as they scrambled to broadcast similar messages from their Twitter accounts. Once Spokesperson Zhao Lijian had started the rumors saying the US was responsible for the virus, Chinese embassies around the world conveyed it across the world, from African countries like South Africa, Botswana, Chad, Uganda, to Asian countries like the Philippines, Maldives, even those in the Near East such as Iran.

It is worth mentioning that the Chinese Foreign service continued to issue slanderous statements against the US, despite WHO’s affirmation on March 15, 2020 of the lack of evidence that the US introduced the new corona virus into China. Christian Lindmeier, WHO spokesman, told the Washington Times that the Chinese conspiracy theory on the US’ role was unfounded.

To make it more confusing, on March 22, 2020, China Global Television Network (CGTN), the state propaganda agency, suggested that Italy might be the virus’s place of origin, citing an Italian doctor named Giuseppe Remuzzi, who said he had heard other doctors mentioning a very strange and severe pneumonia, particularly among the elderly, since December, even November, last year. “This means that the virus was circulating, at least in [the northern region of Lombardy and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.” 

CGTN took advantage of this statement to spread false information about the Covid-19 pandemic originating from other places instead of Wuhan as previously believed. However, Dr. Remuzzi's statement was meant to justify Italy’s failure in response to the corona virus pandemic, instead of explaining the origin of this deadly virus.

It is clear throughout the world that the corona virus originates from Wuhan, China, and the city also experienced the first casualty. Wuhan is also China's largest epidemic center and Chinese physician Li Wenliang was the first person to warn the public about the epidemic, though he was effectively silenced and disciplined by Chinese authorities, and eventually lost his life to this disease.

It is worth mentioning that by concealing information about the disease for nearly 2 months, Chinese authorities has caused immeasurable consequences for its own people and the rest of humanity. No matter where it came from, had Xi Jinping and Beijing authorities responded justly to the dangers of this virus by issuing public announcement from the very beginning (around November 2019), the deaths of tens of thousands of people today would have been prevented, and the world would not have been faced with a global pandemic.

We can never forget it was Beijing authorities’ irresponsibility in handling and responding to this deadly disease that led to this worldwide struggle at the moment. Beijing authorities’ crimes are made even more serious when they purposely permitted thousands of international flights to depart from the pandemic epicenter, while seeking to extinguish accusations that they had denied the existence of the disease since early days.

Furthermore, having spread the Covid-19 epidemic around the world, China is now launching a campaign to spread false information and distort the truth about Covid-19, igniting a propaganda war around the virus.

Refusing to stop at blatant lies and blaming others for its own irresponsibility regarding the global Covid-19 situation, Beijing has stepped up its propaganda game through its global provision of medical equipment and services during the pandemic, which may help establish future relations that can propel China into a “superpower”.

Having essentially kept the epidemic under control, Beijing authorities are trying to boast to the whole world about its “great victory” over the disease and China’s supernatural abilities, claiming to be “heroes” in this crisis. They can now sit back and “spectate” as the whole world is plunged into chaos battling the epidemic, while providing alms to other countries. All is but a lie.

Recently, the Spanish government had returned 340,000 Covid-19 rapid test kits, purchased from Bioeasy, a Shenzhen-based company (Guangdong, China). The kit was promised to have over 80% accuracy but was later found to achieve less than 30% accurate by the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (SEIMC), a leading Spanish research institute. Earlier, on March 23, Czech media reported a similar problem with Chinese test kits. Shame on Beijing to distribute fake goods in the midst of such tribulation.

Similar to the Chinese psychological warfare to monopolize the South China Sea, Beijing leaderships have mobilized their diplomatic missions to carry out a propaganda war on Covid-19. Whether it is the China Daily bribing foreign newspapers, or the use of advertisements on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter by Chinese representatives around the world, no matter how good they are at propaganda, China cannot repair their damaged reputation.

To expose Beijing authorities in this matter, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bluntly criticized Chinese government for waging a “disinformation” campaign about the coronavirus pandemic, at the G7 Virtual Ministerial Meeting on March 25, 2020.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington DC afterwards, Mr. Mike Pompeo said: “Every one of the nations that was at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place”; stressing how “They are the first country to know about the risk to the world from this virus, and they repeatedly delayed sharing that information with the globe”; while asserting that the US “desperately” wanted to cooperate with all countries, including China, to “keep as many people alive, as many people as healthy, and then to restore our economies that have been decimated by the Wuhan virus.”

Some experts say that Beijing's Covid-19 propaganda campaign will not be able to change its image in the global arena. Instead, it will only result in further disdain, as Beijing is now seen cheating and playing with human lives.

Furthermore, Beijing is also taking advantage of the Covid-19 epidemic to propagate and promote their unreasonable and illegal claims in the South China Sea, as the Chinese Embassy in Italy posted on their social networks a picture related to Covid-19 featuring the infamous “cow’s tongue line” in the South China Sea, despite the fact that the Permanent Arbitration Court had dismissed said claim since July 12, 2016.

Beijing is showing their true colors as an expansionist and hegemonic institution, trampling on human dignity and belittling human life. Although Beijing's psychological warfare over the South China Sea issue has not directly affected people's lives, their ongoing Covid-19 propaganda campaign has and therefore, demonstrated more clearly to the world Beijing authorities’ Great Han nature.