Editor's Note: A version of this article was originally published in The Canada Files, December 9, 2020. Join their Patreon.
“Can you believe that China has fewer deaths from COVID-19 than Québec and that the pandemic is under control there?”
asked a Québécois woman who genuinely can’t understand how the Québec government is floundering in its response to the pandemic, while China seems to have the disease in check. COVID-19 has claimed 9,142 lives to date in Québec. Since the outbreak one year ago, China reports 4,800 deaths from the disease.
A year into the pandemic, liberals in the West, some open-minded towards China, are trying to reconcile the facts coming out of that country with the news they see daily in the mainstream media, suggesting that the Chinese are covering up the truth about COVID-19.
At the extreme end of Western sentiments, US President Donald Trump in his speech to the United Nations on September 22, 2020, using the racist Sinophobic term “China virus,” accused China of “unleashing this plague onto the world” and insisted that China must be held accountable. In contrast, in his speech at the same UN General Assembly, Chinese president Xi Jinping called for international solidarity to beat the pandemic. Many conservative and illiberal governments have followed the Trump lead. It is the people of these countries and regions that are suffering the most acute consequences of the pandemic. To date, the death count in the US is 425,000+, in Brazil 219,000+ and in India 154,000+.
How the Chinese Did It
China controlled the COVID-19 pandemic mainly through two key factors:
- Governance – a people’s government that developed a centralized response and action plan to the epidemic. The Chinese government learned the hard lessons of the SARS-CoV outbreak in 2002, which claimed 650 lives in China and Hong Kong. China’s leaders put people first in their approach to fighting COVID-19. This governmental attitude is similar to other socialist countries like Vietnam and Cuba, where the pandemic has also been tamed.
- Collective sense of responsibility among the Chinese people, where each person, through organizations like the grassroots neighbourhood committees, took on the duty of supporting each other in order to combat the pandemic. Seventy years of socialist education reinforced the collective discipline nurtured by nearly three thousand years of Confucian civilization.
To beat back the clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks, the Chinese used three basic community tools:
- Test everyone in the affected area;
- Contact trace those who tested positive to see with whom they came into contact;
- Self-isolate and quarantine for the required period of time to avoid further contamination.
In China, as in other parts of Asia, people routinely wear masks to protect themselves and others during any outbreaks of colds and the flu.
The prestigious British medical journal The Lancet explained China’s initial reaction to the outbreak:
“The speed of China's response was the crucial factor,”
explained Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota, USA).
“They moved very quickly to stop transmission. Other countries, even though they had much longer to prepare for the arrival of the virus, delayed their response and that meant they lost control.”
The first cases were reported in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in Hubei province, in late December 2019. Chinese scientists released the genetic sequencing of the virus to the world on January 10, 2020. Wuhan was quickly locked down starting January 23 and put under quarantine. The lockdown of the city lasted 76 days. Non-essential travel in and out of Wuhan was prohibited, and non-essential enterprises and plants were shut down to protect their workers and the population. The government adopted a method of mutual aid by twinning each of the 16 worst-hit cities in Hubei with other Chinese provinces and municipalities to set up a strong support network nation-wide. From January 24 to March 8, 346 medical teams made up of 43,500 medical workers were mobilized. All the costs of medical treatment and fighting the pandemic are covered by the Chinese government.
China relied on science and made use of cutting-edge technology such as big data and artificial intelligence in the battle against the coronavirus. This belief in science and technology has prompted Western media to label China a police-state, which is keeping taps on the lives of its citizens. Here is how the People’s Daily, organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), responded:
"People are above everything, life is above everything, protecting people's lives and health must be done at whatever cost."
This is the basic logic of China's fight against the pandemic, and the most important reason it was able to control it in a short time.
The whole country, mobilized and led by CCP members, came to the rescue of Wuhan and Hubei province. Medical teams of doctors and nurses volunteered from all over China to work there. Within weeks, 16 “Fangcang” mobile field hospitals with a total of 20,000 beds were erected. They were used to house anyone that tested positive with Covid-19, who had to stay a minimum of 14 days to avoid contaminating their families and neighbours at home. Another Lancet article describes the five functions of the Fangcang hospitals: isolation; triage; basic medical care; monitoring and rapid referral to intensive care facilities; provision of essential living requirements and social engagement. By March 10, 2020, all patients in the Fangcangs were discharged and the facilities began winding down. The lockdown in Wuhan was lifted on April 8. By August 2020, Wuhan had recovered and hosted a huge pool party.
Western Media Accusations of Delayed Response and Cover-up
Dr. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian epidemiologist and a senior official of the World Health Organization, led an independent fact-finding mission to China in February 2020 to investigate the country’s response to the coronavirus. He was quite enthusiastic about how the Chinese government and people were handling the crisis.
“What China demonstrates is that this one is not beyond control. It’s a function of your response,”
he reported. Shortly after, Western media and politicians, egged on by Trump, accused the WHO of toadying up to China. This anti-scientific attack against WHO also led to racist, sexist and Sinophobic smears against Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Medical Health Officer, from right-wing media and politicians like Derek Sloan. The Canada Files has written previously on how the pandemic has brought out the racists, xenophobes and Sinophobes in both verbal and physical assaults on Asian Canadians.
Despite the news that China was controlling the virus at its epicentre in Wuhan, Western media, in a seemingly coordinated outpouring of herd journalism in the first week of June, 2020, accused China of covering up and delaying the release of information to the world, thus attempting to lay the blame for the West’s weak response to the pandemic on China. Without doing any independent research to provide balanced reporting, the lazy Western media parroted the same narrative on China’s response to the pandemic. The CBC, CTV, BBC, CNN, and others had the same storyline reproducing a dispatch from Associated Press, that the failures of Western countries to respond adequately to the pandemic was due to China not releasing information to the world quickly enough with a delay of “ten days.” In a display of the melodramatic, Jake Tapper of CNN said, “China has blood on its hands.”
Holier-than-thou organizations like Amnesty International, which has China under its skin, took the first opportunity to decry the violation of human rights with the lockdown. The Western media, through its own bias, cannot report on the events in Wuhan and the rest of China without adding slanted and loaded language such as “draconian” and the patients were “rounded up,” for confinement as the Guardian puts it. The Western media and pundits put their love of “individualism” as the determining factor in reporting how China was able to curb COVID-19. Even with the possibility of a vaccine, politicians here in Canada admit that the pandemic is out of control and Premier Doug Ford has now declared a state of emergency in Ontario for a month starting January 14, 2021, while his counterpart in Québec has imposed an 8 to 5 curfew to force people to stay home for a similar period.
A new strain (B117) of the coronavirus that is 70% more contagious has since emerged in the UK, and while alarming more people and politicians, it is still not enough to institute a complete lockdown in that country. Healthcare workers have criticized political leaders in Canada for taking half-measures in fighting the pandemic. These political leaders are more concerned with corporate reactions if they close down enterprises and plants to protect the working people (especially meat plant or seasonal migrant farm workers).
Some egregious assertions by the US administration and mainstream media has spurred an outbreak of Sinophobic hysteria around the pandemic. US Secretary of State Pompeo disseminated the lie that the coronavirus was engineered in a Wuhan lab—a conspiracy theory debunked by expert scientists. The US blames the WHO for its own anemic response to the virus and shoots itself in the foot by withdrawing from the WHO.
Other mainstream media assertions with widespread exposure
Dr. Li Wenliang, 33, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan was labelled a “whistleblower” in the Western media. Dr. Li contracted COVID-19 while treating a patient and died on February 7, 2020. He raised the issue of a new type of viral respiratory disease among his colleagues without knowing what it was but suspecting SARS on December 30, 2019. He was reprimanded by the local authorities for making a false comment on the Internet about unconfirmed SARS. What the mainstream media does not say is that Dr. Li was a loyal member of the Chinese Communist Party and after his death, the Party “solemnly apologized” and exonerated him. Dr. Li, one of many CCP members who gave their lives in combatting the pandemic was honoured as a “martyr” by the government.
Another curious tale spun by the mainstream media is that of Zhang Zhan. As if on cue, the CBC and the rest of the pack journalists published on December 28, 2020 that a Chinese “citizen journalist,” a whimsical designation for a person with no journalistic credentials, was sentenced to four years prison by a Chinese court in Shanghai for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” As often prefaced in the mainstream media when writing about China, unconfirmed reports say that Zhang Zhan, a practicing Christian, is also a devotee of the Falun Gong sect that seeks to bring down the Chinese government. Furthermore, her politics are akin to those of the “anti-maskers” and the rioters who stormed capitol Hill in the US, Jan 6, 2021, and the Legco building in Hong Kong in 2019.
Her videos show that she tried continuously to disrupt anti-COVID measures in Wuhan and urged people to “flee” from lockdown at the height of the pandemic in February 2020. Her videos are described here as “rare and unvarnished glimpses” from the epicentre of the virus in Wuhan, but Western media doesn't add that she was disruptive and encouraged people to ignore the lockdown. She was also arrested in 2019 for supporting the riots in Hong Kong.
There is no doubt that Zhang Zhan acted illegally as she was repeatedly warned to stay away from sick patients and to respect the lockdown regulations while Wuhan was in a state of war against the virus in February. She became the boots on the ground for nefarious entities like the Epoch Times and Radio Free Asia. She criminally spread fake news by saying that Wuhan had a resurgence of COVID-19, while people in the city were just getting their lives back in order. The mainstream media campaign for Zhang Zhan’s release contrasts with the case of Julian Assange, who is still languishing in a British maximum-security prison, charged with no crime, yet without any support from the journalism establishment.
The Chinese government’s attitude is that the people come first. If they take care of the people, the economy will follow. While the Western world’s economy deteriorated with negative growth throughout 2020, the Chinese economy started to rebound in the second quarter of 2020 at 3.2 per cent, after the worst of the pandemic subsided. The International Monetary Fund conservatively predicts that the Chinese economy will grow by 7.9 per cent in 2021.
A WHO team is now in China to work with Chinese scientists to investigate the origins of the virus. The US has poisoned the well to start with by constantly blaming China for the virus. The Chinese government, except for a few clusters and isolated outbreaks, has the pandemic under control. China is calling for international cooperation and solidarity to defeat COVID-19 worldwide. Western media has clearly played a major role in sabotaging international cooperation by its own real or imagined mistrust of China.
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