China Daily editorial: With its ploy exposed, will the NYT eat crow? | Updated: 2018-08-31 20:23

And we thought only dubious or biased media outlets were in the business of spreading falsity. One day the US president tweets from another universe, and hours later admonishes people saying stories based on anonymous sources are "fiction". A couple of days before that, The New York Times publishes a report which is neither backed by facts nor crosschecked for authenticity.

The NYT quoted anonymous US federal health officials and scientists to say China has not been sharing samples of a deadly flu strain with the United States for more than a year, leaving health officials worried that trade tensions between the two countries could halt once-routine information sharing of medical and related issues.

Did the NYT crosscheck with the World Health Organization whether the US health officials' claim was true? No. Did it get a response from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the Chinese embassy in Washington? No.

Yet it went ahead and published the report on Monday accusing China of not sharing H7N9 influenza samples with the US. This is no small allegation; it could allow the US to falsely blame China for any delay or difficulty in its preparedness for the next epidemic threat.

Worse, the report uses a cooked-up premise to criticize China for using a public health issue as a trade weapon against the US, in an effort to paint China as a selfish member of the international community.

This is an apt example of exactly what journalism should not be about.

Indeed, WHO has guidelines for member countries on sharing samples of dangerous viruses so they can use them for research to develop vaccines and other cures. Speaking to China Daily, WHO and Chinese CDC officials said that health authorities in China and the US have been "continuously" and "actively" exchanging information and materials including those on viruses.

"Specifically on H7N9, since May 2018, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received five H7N9 virus samples from the Chinese center", a WHO official said. The Chinese CDC's response was the same.

For the uninitiated, the Chinese and US centers for disease control are two of the six centers participating in WHO's Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System set up 66 years ago. China, driven by its policy, has been playing a key role in the global fight against epidemics and deadly diseases. Apart from collaborating with other countries, including the US, through WHO channels on SARS and different strains of bird flu, China has been praised by the international community for its role in the fight against the outbreaks of the Ebola virus in Africa and Zika virus in South America. These are the facts.

Making outlandish claims against China therefore will not only complicate the trade dispute further but also impede research into viruses.

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