China’s covid outbreak story: How bad is the situation?

China’s covid outbreak story: How bad is the situation?

Foreign Affairs

Over the last few weeks, China‘s covid outbreak story has been published abundantly by the western mainstream media and their global allies. The news of China’s covid outbreak has stirred panic among people in different countries.

It’s reported that China is experiencing one of the worst phases of the pandemic, three years after the virus was detected during an outbreak in Wuhan. It’s alleged that Beijing has failed to contain the spread of the virus soon after it relaxed its highly controversial “Zero Covid” policy in November.

From American newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post to British media houses like the BBC and The Guardian, the western mainstream media is overtly running a vitriolic campaign against China, eradicating the basic distinctions between journalism and propaganda.

In such a scenario, it’s imperative to use facts and analyse the events to derive the truth, what the Chinese call “seeking truth from facts”.

What is the western mainstream media saying about China?

If one goes through the reports published by the BBC like this, or The Washington Post like this, they will conclude that China is seeing exponential growth of Covid-19 cases and its healthcare system has collapsed.

In one of the stories published by the BBC, it has been mentioned that China’s hospitals have been “filling up” with new cases of Covid-19 infections. The BBC article downplayed China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, calling it ineffective.

The article said: “China has developed and produced its own vaccines, which have been shown to be less effective at protecting people against serious Covid illness and death than the mRNA vaccines used in much of the rest of the world.”

The New York Times accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of having “no policy” on Covid-19, weeks after the government relaxed the “Zero Covid” policy that had been used to contain the spread of the pandemic since 2020.

As per The Times’ article, the Chinese government is now looking for western vaccines and medicines. The article said: “The government is racing to approve vaccines and to obtain Western medicines after shunning them.”

The Washington Post alleged that the lack of a “fallback strategy” following the relaxation of the “Zero Covid” policy would lead to a global catastrophe as cases of Covid-19 are soaring in China. It also advocated “importing” western mRNA vaccines, calling the Chinese vaccine ineffective.

The Post article said: “China unwisely eschewed the effective mRNA vaccines for less-effective Chinese-made shots. The population has not been widely exposed to omicron, and thus lacks natural immunity. A potential lifeline is an aerosol vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics. It is being offered as a booster, in the form of an inhaled mist taken in through the mouth, after studies show it triggered an immune system response in people who had previously received two shots of a Chinese vaccine. The best strategy is pressing this vaccine and importing millions of mRNA shots, too. (sic)”

In this article, The Guardian columnist Devi Sridhar wrote that China has neglected vaccination and has been averse to accepting the mRNA vaccines from the west. She, too, called the Chinese vaccines ineffective and accused the government of being slow in vaccinating the population.

Sridhar quoted Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence—not an institution with much repute in handling medical issues, including the pandemic—who accused President Xi has been “unwilling to take a better vaccine from the west, and is instead relying on a vaccine in China that’s just not nearly as effective against Omicron”.

What is China’s actual Covid-19 situation?

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) data, in the week starting on December 5th 2022, there were 149,674 new Covid-19 cases in China, with 337 deaths. The number decreased to 147,643 cases in the next week, although with a higher number of deaths, 418. In the following week, 116,634 new cases and 350 deaths were reported.

So far, since the first detection of the Novel coronavirus infection in Wuhan in December 2019, 10.17m total Covid-19 infections have been detected in China, with 31,585 deaths. The country has remained under strict quarantine rules for nearly three years.

While the Chinese government had followed a strict Covid-19 containment measure, it didn’t help contain an upsurge in the number of infections in mid-2022. After a relatively calm situation, China’s Covid-19 cases have spiralled since February 2022. In the week starting on February 28th, a total of 297,523 cases were detected, and 1,197 people died. The highest number of deaths happened in the week of March 7th, when 1,955 people died.

From March to April, the situation remained tense. Despite the number of cases falling to 22,519 in the week of April 4th, there were 645 deaths. Soon the number of cases started rising manifold. It reached a peak in the week of May 23rd when 576,367 new cases were detected. However, there were 578 deaths that week, far below the tally of March.

The next upsurge was in October when the ruling Communist Party of China’s (CPC) 20th National Congress was organised in Beijing. Xi, who was elected as the general secretary of the 101-year-old party, ironically praised China’s Covid-19 policy during the CPC’s Congress and vowed to continue the fight. However, at the same time, in the week starting on October 3rd, 333,830 cases were detected, and 412 deaths took place.

Following the lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions in November, following a series of protests by a few hundred citizens across China, there has been a spike in the number of new infections; however, the situation isn’t as gloomy as it was in March and May. While there were 257,994 cases during the week starting on October 24th, the number of cases dropped to 144,205 in the week of November 21st.

The data, sourced from the WHO’s databank, clearly shows that despite a very alarming situation prevailing in China, the overall Covid-19 situation is quite under control vis-à-vis the March-May 2022 scenario. However, ironically, the western mainstream media didn’t bother to create hullaballoo over China’s pandemic crisis then. Probably they saved the energy for the winter.

Why doesn’t the western media believe in China’s Covid-19 facts?

The western mainstream media outlets and their respective governments do not believe in China’s Covid-19 numbers. They allege that China has been under-reporting the number of cases. Donald Trump, the former US president, accused China of under-reporting cases and spreading the virus worldwide. Trump’s “doubt China” policy is uncritically adopted by all western stakeholders, despite their verbal diarrhoea against the man and his policies.

Although neither the US government’s agencies nor the WHO had ever produced any evidence to prove that China has been “under-reporting” its Covid-19 cases, they have been carrying on their anti-China tirade unapologetically.

This narrative has provided immunity to the western mainstream press. They can easily blame and accuse China of anything, downplay Chinese media reports as “state propaganda”, and reject the Chinese arguments as unfounded because the west has already condemned Beijing of “under-reporting”.

The mainstream media has planted the narrative of China’s Covid-19 “under-reporting” globally to titillate the audience. Hence, when they claim that the Chinese government has failed to contain Covid-19, the gullible audience believes the propaganda without considering that almost all governments of the world, including that of the US, have failed to protect their citizens from the pandemic.

Knowing how the US and the western countries have fared in their struggle against Covid-19 infection is imperative. Did the advanced mRNA vaccines and medicines help the Americans and Europeans? What do facts say?

What is the scenario of the Covid-19 cases in the rest of the world?

Ironically, when the western mainstream media is blowing a klaxon over China’s Covid-19 outbreak, there has been a severe outbreak of the virus in the US and other countries like Japan and South Korea. However, the western mainstream media has not raised the eerie alarm, unlike in China’s case.

Using the WHO’s data, let us see how the US is faring despite its “effective” mRNA vaccine getting a better ranking than the Chinese one.

In the week of December 19th, the US has seen 501,758 new Covid-19 cases and 2,881 deaths. This is a spike compared to the week of December 5th, when there were 458,885 cases and 3,068 deaths. Between November 28th and December 23rd 2022, 10,365 people have died in the US due to Covid-19.

The situation isn’t quite well in a small country like Britain. Although Britain had its highest number of cases in the first week of January 2022, when 1.32m people were detected covid positive, and 1,482 people died, its situation is worsening. In the week of December 19th, there have been 27,907 confirmed cases and 129 deaths.

Japan, one of the US allies in Asia-Pacific, is in its worst stage. According to the John Hopkins University of Medicine’s Covid-19 Dashboard, 3.6m people have been detected covid positive between November 25th and December 23rd. According to the WHO, 5,084 people died in Japan between November 28th and December 23rd 2022.

Another US ally, South Korea, is also in sheer danger. According to the WHO, there have been 1.6m confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Korea between November 28th and December 23rd 2022. Around 1,305 people died in South Korea during this period.

In the table below, we have analysed the Covid-19 trends in China, Japan, South Korea, the US and the UK.

The table shows that China’s infection and death rates are considerably lower than that of the US, Japan and South Korea, considering its huge population. The situation is extremely precarious in the US and Japan, yet the mainstream media has not delved into the issues in these countries that have led to such a spike in infection and high death rates.

What is the western media saying about the upsurge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in other countries?

Although the western mainstream media outlets are vocal about China, and some like The Washington Post have even estimated a million deaths, they have maintained a relatively calmer tone when it comes to gauging the damage caused in the countries like the US, Japan and South Korea.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the BBC have been doing stories about Christmas and holidays, Russia’s special military operations in Ukraine and other topics. Still, they have not emphasised the threat posed by the growing number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

Their indifference regarding the covid menace in the US, Japan and South Korea can be seen as an attempt to cover up the fact that the so-called “advanced” and “effective” mRNA vaccines they have been prescribing for China have failed to contain the threat in these countries.

However, through their continuous rejection of China’s official Covid-19 statistics, these mainstream media outlets have ensured that they have a reason to refuse to believe what’s told by China officially. Rather, they have based their findings on the opinion of some exiled Chinese, unnamed sources and reporters who have been found troublesome by the Chinese government.

Unsurprisingly, these media houses don’t question the data-collection processes and the overall number of casualties reported by the US, Japan, South Korea, or the UK. These governments get the benefit of the doubt, which China is not entitled to due to obvious geopolitical reasons.

Who wins between myths and facts?

Information is the major weapon in 21st-century warfare. The propaganda war launched by the likes of The New York Times has breached all journalistic protocols. It was found that The New York Times even compared China’s Covid-19 crisis handling with Nazi Germany’s Holocaust.

Reuters has claimed that many deaths are occurring in Beijing, and funeral parlours are working overtime. Normal police stationing outside crematoriums is reported as instances of cover-up. However, none can find similar stories from the US or Japan, where thousands died in a month.

Take the case of Chinese vaccines, for example. The western mainstream media has been unapologetic in its disdain for the seven Chinese vaccines and boosters. They don’t even pretend neutrality when promoting the western mRNA vaccines, developed by large pharmaceutical giants, by downplaying Chinese vaccines.

China’s covid vaccine has been certified by the WHO as 79% effective against the Novel Coronavirus. Beijing has administered over 3.46 bn vaccine dosages, which has helped contain the spike in Covid-19.

However, as the Covid-19 virus mutates, the efficacy of all vaccines, including the western mRNA vaccines, continues to fall before the new variants. This is true for the western mRNA vaccines Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford University developed. Alike China’s vaccine, the Russian Sputnik-V also faced western wrath due to obvious geopolitical reasons.

Accusing the Chinese vaccines while remaining mum about the inefficacy of the western mRNA vaccines isn’t a form of honest journalism. However, the western media, accused of peddling lies and working as a megaphone in geopolitical affairs, has no qualms about using such unethical tactics.

The propaganda war became extremely evident when the western mainstream media welcomed the anti-restriction protests in China. However, they didn’t expect the CPC to accept the demands and relax the “Zero Covid” policy. Sooner, with the policy gone, the western mainstream media found itself in a pickle. A new narrative on China’s Covid-19 catastrophe was planted for a rescue.

In the information war, the facts are buried deep, and colossal structures of myths are erected using a cacophony of lies. Although China’s covid situation isn’t as bad as in the US or Japan, Beijing failed to use its media outfits or influence to establish the truth, braving the propaganda blitzkrieg vociferously. Apart from reprimanding the BBC in January, the Chinese government has taken no concrete steps to bust the myths and establish the truth.

China’s covid situation is relatively better. However, the negative propaganda will disrupt trade, commerce and bilateral ties for some time. It’s to be seen whether Beijing can come out of its comfort zone and combat the western mainstream media, or it will remain cocooned and allow them to continue spreading lies and shape people’s opinion worldwide.

An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker

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