Trying to win a propaganda tug-of-war, Beijing staunchly defended its actions, saying it didn’t hide the emergence of the outbreak.
BEIJING, Under continued fire for its early mishandling of the coronavirus, the Chinese government vigorously defended its actions in a new, detailed account on Sunday that portrays the country’s approach to combating the outbreak as a model for the world.
Calling the epidemic a “test of fire,” Beijing builds a comprehensive picture of its “painstaking efforts” to identify the virus, stop its spread and warn other countries — a narrative that discounts and ignores missteps by the government at the outset of the outbreak.
In the report, local and provincial officials are described as acting decisively. The World Health Organization is said to have been kept informed in detail starting from Jan. 3, while Chinese scientists quickly released the genome sequence. China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, is described as playing a pivotal role throughout the crisis.
“Confronted by this virus, the Chinese people have joined together as one and united their efforts,” the report said. “They have succeeded in containing the spread of the virus. In this battle, China will always stand together with other countries.”
Like much of China’s state propaganda on the coronavirus, the report provides a sanitized version of events, leaving out political and bureaucratic problems that exacerbated the crisis when it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
There is no mention of the doctor who was reprimanded by the police for raising an early alarm about the virus or the young Chinese bloggers who were taking into custody after creating videos of the suffering in Wuhan.
There is no discussion of local officials’ delays in reporting cases and underplaying the outbreak, or their subsequent firing. Officials instead are lauded for dedicating themselves to defeating the virus in the report, which speaks of “an effective and well-functioning, whole of the nation control mechanism.”
The report offers no new information on the origins of the virus. In a news conference on Sunday, a top Chinese official dismissed accusations about Beijing’s conduct as “completely unwarranted and unreasonable,” an apparent reference to numerous accusations by the Trump administration that China is to blame for the pandemic.
China has much at stake in global perceptions of its actions. Whether China is pilloried or praised could have a big effect on Beijing’s world standing in the months and years ahead and its ability to continue playing an ever more assertive role in international organizations and in geopolitical affairs.
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