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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  Opinion | A pathogen causing havoc has revealed the real face of China

Opinion | A pathogen causing havoc has revealed the real face of China

It’s time the world woke up and acknowledged that trusting the regime in Beijing was unwise

Photo: ReutersPremium
Photo: Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic will be over one day, perhaps in a few months, perhaps in a year and a half. By then, it could be a different world. But one good thing that I hope comes out of this is that we will recognize China for what it is, the threat it poses to the world. Covid-19 should serve as a mega-decibel wake-up call.

The first Covid-19 case was spotted in Wuhan in mid-November. As the number of cases rose, the Chinese regime’s first reaction was to go into denial, and then try to hush it all up. In December, test results from several laboratories suggested there was an outbreak of a new virus similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS 1. The government did not act. On 30 December, Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan, sounded the alarm and released evidence online. Li was punished for “spreading rumours", and died from the disease five weeks later. On 3 January, China’s top health authority, the National Health Commission, ordered institutions not to publish any information related to the disease, and even commanded labs to destroy any samples they had (for the full story of the cover-up, go to Caixin Global, a rare independent Chinese media outlet:

On 14 January, the World Health Organization announced that “preliminary investigations by Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission" of the virus. Only on 20 January, unable to stop the global spread of videos of people appearing to drop on the streets of Wuhan, did China admit that the virus was transmitted human-to-human, and confirmed 217 cases in the city, with four deaths (we should not believe this number or any other number or claim that China has made since). By then, the disease had travelled across the world. This is appalling, to say the least.

A massive operation followed, as only a dictatorial regime can pull off, and over the last fortnight, the world has been informed constantly about how effectively China has fought the virus. Some Western observers have even gushed about it. Meanwhile, the internet police have been censoring virus-related content, and silencing and arresting people for “disturbing social order". The heavy censorship may have even stopped the flow of vital communication related to disease information and prevention.

Wuhan’s authorities have now announced plans for “gratitude education" to make sure residents properly thank the Communist Party for controlling the epidemic. “Education", of course, is a euphemism for brainwashing—in this case, squashing the resentment among Wuhan’s people over a man-made calamity. Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic is a man-made calamity, and no one knows that better than the residents of Wuhan.

Today, China is in aggression mode. On 9 March, state mouthpiece Global Times said that there was no real evidence that the epidemic originated in Wuhan. On 12 March, a foreign ministry spokesperson tweeted the conspiracy theory that the government had allowed to thrive on Chinese social media, that American soldiers who visited Wuhan in October may have released the virus. Since then, it has ordered the expulsion of several American journalists, and even descended to veiled threats of restricting the export of vital drugs to the US (China produces a vast chunk of the world’s supply of antibiotics and ibuprofen, among other drugs). Wounded tiger, snarling dragon.

Covid-19 has exposed the real China. First, it tries to “save face" by denying and lying (a few thousand Chinese dying in the process seems of little consequence to its Communist Party; after all, Mao’s Great Leap Forward programme probably left 40 million people dead). Then, when things get out of hand, it boasts about how it is the world’s best in fighting an epidemic, to divert attention from the fact that its actions resulted in the global contagion in the first place. Finally, it gets aggressive and bares its arrogant blackmailing visage, which, actually, is no revelation to many observers. I have written about China’s deviousness before.

Also Read: Opinion | The world has been deceived by China for too long

For half a century, China has managed to fool the US and the West into helping (in fact, financing) its rise to superpower status. As China raced towards its goal of global hegemony, exploiting Western gullibility and greed, Western leaders and their advisers made no effort to figure out how Chinese leaders think, when all the evidence was right out there. They failed to note that in the Chinese theory of warfare, as seen in many of their classic works, deceit is the most valued weapon; that one of the key battle strategies is to lull the enemy into doing all the work for you before you strike with shashoujian, the “assassin’s mace", a move that incapacitates the enemy, without fighting by “the rules". The West was a mute spectator as China openly stole technology till it no longer needed to, flouted international trade norms, tried to control the South China Sea, lied brazenly and constantly about its true intentions, and trapped nation after nation in its Belt and Road Initiative. One can only hope that Covid-19 will wake the world up. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Sandipan Deb is a former editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines

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Published: 22 Mar 2020, 10:03 PM IST
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