China is at present busy with a global campaign to rid itself of the taint of an alleged cover-up of and misinformation about the Corona Virus outbreak. But is the world convinced?
US President Donald Trump has his tail high as he taunts and flays China. A German lawsuit and a Japanese declaration of intent to withdraw investments from China are the big bubbles of exasperation, with little bubbles forming in various other countries.
However, it is a surge in global outrage that China is worried about. Yes. The Dragon has exhibited, for the first time in recent years, a sense of anxiety about its public relations.
The latest in the Chinese global campaign to redeem itself is an animation video, released by the official Xinhua news agency, to cock a snook at the United States claiming a Chinese cover-up of the virus outbreak.
The video continues the tale of how the USA initially ignored all Chinese warnings about the intensity of the new virus and subsequently claimed that China hid the truth from the world about the virus.
Officially, the United States did not formally denounce the animation, but President Trump allowed no let-up in his anti-China harangue in his May Day press meet: “They could’ve kept it, they could’ve stopped it but they didn’t.”
He went on to insinuate if the virus was a leak from a Chinese virology laboratory: “It’s a terrible thing that happened. Whether they made a mistake or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one, or did somebody do something on purpose?”
China went on the defensive, defending the institute. Its director, Yuan Zhiming, was quoted by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, that there was no question of any virus escaping the laboratory as the security measures were fail-safe.
The one thing that exposes the Chinese publicity campaign for ï¿½redemption’ is the timeline of the Corona cover-up. Such has been the publicity blitz from the Chinese official media that even accepted facts about the Chinese responses in the initial days of the outbreak now appear hazy.
A careful scan of the events since December, 2019 gives the true trail of what happened and justifies the scale of the publicity campaign: It was on December 1, 2019 that the first patient with the now well-known virus symptoms was identified in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province.
Cover-up 1: China initially denied the existence of the virus or that it could spread from human to human.
Cover-up 2: By December 25, as virus cases grew exponentially, Wuhan municipal health commission said at the end of an investigation that there was no human to human transfer of the virus.
Cover-up 3: Chinese ophthalmologist Dr Li Wenliang of Wuhan became the first doctor to blow the lid off the untruths over the virus saying it was a SARS-like illness and that urgent anti-infection measures were needed. He was formally censured and made to sign an error statement! He would later contract the virus and succumb to it.
Cover-up 4: By January 15, a Chinese woman in Thailand and a Japanese national had contracted the virus — the first two cases outside China — and the issue turned global.
Cover-up 5: Worse still, China centralised the system of releasing medical data — read as releasing doctored data — and confirmed the censorship by announcing it was sending 300 journalists to Wuhan!
It was not until January 20, by which time thousands of Chinese in Wuhan were affected and quarantine measures were being enforced, that China formally admitted that the virus was spreading from human to human contact.
The next day, the first case of the virus was reported in the USA, the affected person having returned from China the previous week. On January 22, the world finally got a confirmed report about the existence of Corona virus when a team of the World Health Organisation visited Wuhan and reported that testing of patients confirmed that the human-to-human transmission was rampant.
The rest is history, so to say, which China is now trying to re-write or even erase. Part of the campaign was in response to the ï¿½western’ Press reportedly ignoring China’s side of the story.
However, the world, save countries like Argentina and Turkey, refused to accept the Chinese publicity version. Major countries like the USA, UK, France and Germany confronted China directly.
Several African nations including Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana protested to China for the alleged cover-up. Japan promised $2 billion to its companies if they shifted their production bases out of China. A German paper, Bild, even presented a mock bill of 149 billion euros to China for the economic losses it suffered on account of the virus. Reports from India say that wary of possible attempts by Chinese companies to buy distressed companies at cheap prices during the Corona pandemic, it banned foreign direct investment under the automatic route from its neighbours.
Needless to say, China was rattled as the nations one by one began re-working their relations with the Dragon. The intensity of the Chinese campaign, analysts say, is evidence of the Chinese realisation that the relationship of China with the outside world will change once it comes out of the virus trap.
China certainly awaits the backlash and what form it takes, irrespective of whether the world is really determined or is still assessing the implications of confronting China.
For once, the traditional system of misinformation backfired.