José Barros —— Why the US has just tightened its policy on China

The US Administration has made a qualitative leap in the harshness of its relationship with China. On May 29th it directly accused him of the global expansion of the COVID. During the first weeks of the outbreak, the Beijing regime adopted a strategy of censorship and repression of its own scientific community and civilian population to deny the existence of the virus. The loss of this precious time has allowed COVID-19 to reach the current dimensions of a pandemic.

The world holds its breath for the absence of specific treatment for the almost unknown coronavirus 2 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of the pandemic called COVID-19. The first outbreak began in late 2019 in China’s Hubei province, whose 58 million people include its capital, Wuhan, with a population of about 12 million.

Following analysis of its DNA, the international scientific community has ruled out that the virus was manufactured in vitro. However, the five continents are wondering if COVID-19 could have accidentally passed out of the Wuhan Virology Institute. The laboratory is known for studying the consequences of the coronavirus on bats, mammals that it affects as an endemic disease. Although in 2018 a member of the U.S. State Department expressed through two internal notes his concern about the low safety standards in the facility, at the moment there is no evidence to conclude that the virus escaped from Chinese laboratories.

Against this backdrop, French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, following a virtual G-7 meeting on 16 April, said that “things happened that we don’t know about” in the origins of the virus and that China in the future “will have to answer difficult questions”. But beyond the uncertainties about its origin – which continue to be investigated – the Chinese government’s methods of managing the crisis are coming under more intense scrutiny from the international community with every passing day.

Reputation over lives

The epicenter of the outbreak is in Wuhan, in the popular Huanan food market, located eight miles from the Virological Institute. A market where live seafood and wild animals – including bats, civets, snakes and pangolins – are sold and cooked under virtually unsanitary conditions. The New York Times and The Economist have echoed the hypothesis that an accidentally infected researcher at the Wuhan lab would have gone to eat at this market. President Trump, in a statement to the press, spoke in this context of “a terrible mistake”. The truth is that in the eyes of international public opinion there is as yet no conclusive evidence to support such claims.

It is clear, however, that the reaction of the Chinese government was to hide the facts once the first cases of infected people became known on 20 December 2019.

In other words, the Public Administration of the former Central Empire did not act in the first place to protect the inhabitants of the area, but to defend the reputation of the Chinese Communist Party through the crudest method: denying the existence of the problem and threatening with reprisals those who maintain the opposite.

Dr. Li Wenliang, the doctor who on December 30 issued the coronavirus alert to his former students, was accused of “spreading rumors”, a crime punishable by seven years in prison. His warnings were silenced. Li died on February 7 of the illness he warned about, while the Beijing government tried to quell both the show of support for him and the tide of indignation against the authorities.

By concealing the outbreak from the Chinese media, the public did not stop visiting that food market until it was officially closed on 1 January 2020. Censorship on Chinese social networks and mobile phones also forced the removal of key words referring to the outbreak, while several doctors and nurses were imprisoned for warning the population.

Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China and secretary general of the CCP, rejected the initial month-long offers of help from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And despite the fact that the Chinese authorities were in contact with the World Health Organization (WHO), he chose to ignore their advice.

The Chinese National Health Commission’s documents on COVID-19 acknowledged the dark picture, but were labelled “internal” and remained banned from public distribution during January. Meanwhile, Li Qun, head of China’s Disease Control Emergency Center, claimed on public television that “the risk of person-to-person transmission is low. The first death acknowledged by the regime was that of a 61-year-old man from Wuhan who had visited Huanan market. He died on 9 January. Two days later, the authorities confirmed the identity of the virus, but made no reference to the start of the pandemic.

Obscurantism in the number of deaths

It was only when the first case of coronavirus appeared outside China – on 13 January in Thailand – that the Communist authorities ruled out their strategy of concealment; the discredit would have been all the greater if a foreign country had recognised the epidemic earlier than in the state where it originated. President Xi made his first public statements about the virus on January 20. The outbreak “must be taken seriously,” he warned. The city of Wuhan was finally closed on January 23rd. According to the study published on February 13 by the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, if the Chinese government had acted one, two or three weeks earlier, the number of people affected in the country would have been reduced by 66, 86 or 95%, respectively.

The Chinese Government’s policies are having a strong impact beyond its own borders. The slow reaction of the international community is not only due to the unpredictability factor associated with an unknown disease, but also to the conscious effort made by the party-state apparatus for a month to, firstly, censure and persecute its own population; secondly, to hide significant data from the concert of nations; and finally, to carry out management with serious signs of inefficiency.

Several intelligence agencies, including those of the United States, believe that the manipulation of the communist regime also affects the data we have about the pandemic in China itself. This generates an analytical distortion that prevents the evaluation of the real effect of COVID-19 on the world population, which reduces the effectiveness of health strategies.

Moreover, there are serious doubts about the figures provided by China. According to official data from Beijing, the total number of its citizens who have died is 4,642 out of a population of 1.4 billion. In Spain, with 47 million inhabitants, the number of deaths, also according to official data, exceeds 25,000 on the day this text is written. A mere extrapolation that crosses the Spanish data with the number of inhabitants of China, offers the figure of 700,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the Asian country, a number that would fall short when compared with unofficial figures.

Strong pressure to intimidate the European Union

It is no secret that the Beijing regime, aware that its image is seriously damaged by its systematic misrepresentations and concealments, is exerting enormous pressure on Europe, which is entering the field of more or less veiled threats. The European Union’s own External Action Service recognises that these disinformative tactics also seek to discredit the effectiveness of Western democracies in curbing the current crisis and to reinforce – by contrast – Beijing’s enr oasis on its neo-communist model.

The EU’s position in the face of this global disinformation campaign on which the Chinese government has embarked is defined by Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Common Security Policy. The Washington Post and The New York Times now consider it a capitulation that Borrell has authorised the modification of a report to remove the most critical aspects of China.

The High Representative has acknowledged the existence of Chinese pressure, but denies any concessions. The argument used by Josep Borrell is that from the beginning he had two reports in mind: one, public, softer; and the other, internal, with 100% of the information, including the hardest contents.

In any case, the most dramatically certain consequence of this biological Chernobyl is that throughout the world – excluding the dubious data provided by China – more than 240,000 people have died from COVID-19 and the lives of several million more are in danger. As for the economic impact that the pandemic will generate on the world economy, it is clear that it will be enormous.

Meanwhile, the Gramscian-style neo-Marxist Chinese dictatorship is taking advantage of the fact that world attention is focused on the coronavirus to turn the screw on its repressive policy in the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong. The pro-democracy leaders of the former British colony are being detained by the regime. Fourteen of its most prominent leaders, including newspaper publishers and political representatives, have been sleeping behind bars since 18 April. They will be tried this May for organising the massive demonstrations of 2019.

If there is anything positive about the current pandemic it is that it has served to sound the alarm of international public opinion about the methods and objectives of the Chinese regime, which is objectively responsible for the spread of COVID-19 around the world.

This article was originally published in Fundación FAES. You can access it clicking here.



José Barros
Journalist and communication consultant