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US-fanned political pandemic stirs waves against China's hard-won success

By Tom Fowdy | | Updated: 2022-04-20 22:13
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Medical workers take a swab sample from a resident for nucleic acid test at a community in Putuo district of Shanghai, East China, April 6, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Since COVID-19 became apparent to the world in early 2020, there are many voices who have sought to politicize the pandemic since the first day till the recent Shanghai outbreak, taking particular aim at China with the goal of scoring points.

Whilst on paper, the outbreak of a virus is a scientific and humanitarian problem of which the world ought to work together to contain, it is a sad state of affairs that the COVID-19 will in fact stand to be the most politicized pandemic in modern history. Never has in any instance, the course of such an outbreak been so militantly attached to discrediting a single country and its political system as this one.

The politicization of the pandemic by the United States-led West stemmed from a time when a queer US foreign policy environment under the previous Donald Trump administration rendered all things pertaining to China into a zero-sum contest, an environment which has made it impossible to objectively and impartially assess any matters pertaining to the country.

In such a context, China's political system and achievements are seen as threatening to the US's ideological exceptionalism, and therefore the Chinese political system and achievements must be thoroughly discredited as a "model" at all costs. This has led to a poisonous media environment which is obsessed with negative coverage pertaining to Beijing, even to the complete abrogation of facts.

As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic has been grossly politicized against the country throughout the years. In the early days, the outbreak in Wuhan was designated as a failure of China, drawing upon the assumption these events could not happen in the "transparent" and "civilized west". The BBC called it an "epic political disaster".

As the pandemic worsens, China was scapegoated as part of an opportunistic blame game spearheaded by an aggressive US administration, who used it as a means to reset their own and allies' foreign policies pertaining to China.

Contrary to the narrative however, China's successful dynamic zero-COVID policy not only overcame the outbreak in Wuhan and a series of other major cities including Changchun and Shenzhen recently, but succeeded in creating relative normality throughout the country for two years. This approach has saved millions of lives, ultimately allowed China's economy to rebound rapidly.

The response of the Western powers was to simply deny China any recognition for it whatsoever. The US and the United Kingdom, in particular, accused China of lying about their numbers and began even propagating conspiracy theories such as the infamous "lab leak" conspiracy theory from Wuhan -- a claim which was as nonsensical as it was offensive and totally ignored pneumonia-related deaths around US military biological lab at Port Detrick, Maryland, not long before its suspension by authorities in mid 2019.

In no circumstances whatsoever were Western politicians and media prepared to give China credit for their handling of COVID-19, even as their own populations died in large numbers.

As China created its own vaccines, the West quickly created new narratives falsely claiming such vaccines were ineffective, publishing misinformation about their efficacy in countries which used them. It goes without saying that at every single stage and event of this whole crisis, there has been a narrative ready to attack China with.

Now the medium switches toward the phased lockdown in Shanghai, the mainland's top commercial hub. Again, misinformation has been published claiming the city's harsher-than-normal lockdown is brutal or inhumane. While ignoring the fact that the very few lawbreakers in Shanghai shown on social media are treated much more leniently than those in face of US police, such interpretations deceptively omit the bigger picture that China has offset the enormous loss of life experienced in the West.

Of course, whilst that does not mean the situation is perfect or that difficult decisions lie ahead, it must nonetheless be understood that Western commentary and interpretations of China's COVID-19 policy are being made in bad faith to undermine the country's political system and prospects as a whole.

Whilst it is true that the Omicron variant is more transmissible and has a lower death toll, which mandates a change in strategy, it is also objectively true that China's dynamic zero-COVID policy has been above all, extremely successful. Local authorities can make mistakes, but unlike in the US and UK, these authorities will be held accountable by their superiors if necessary.

Whilst China faces COVID-19, it has also faced the "political pandemic" which believes it can do no right in absolutely anything it does. Our world will be safer once without such a man-made pandemic.

The author is a British political and international relations analyst. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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