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Foreign Policy

U.S. Slander of China Backfires

Apr 13, 2020
  • Ma Shikun

    Senior Journalist, the People’s Daily

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the United States, some of its top politicians are doing all they can to discredit China. They continue to slander China, claiming it reported the epidemic too late and that it has not been transparent. They also falsely accuse China of concealing the real numbers of its COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The purpose of this is obvious: First, they want to make China a scapegoat, while shirking responsibility for their own slow response in fighting the epidemic in the U.S. Second, they are annoyed by China’s basic success in stemming the epidemic, which has been praised by many countries. And so they spread lies in an attempt to destroy China’s reputation.

As the sayings go, lies have short legs and facts speak louder than words.

The timeline of China’s response to COVID-19 is clear: On Dec. 17, 2019, the director of the Department of Respiratory and Intensive Care at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, reported three suspected cases involving a new kind of virus. Over the next two days, the city’s center for disease prevention and control and several hospitals conducted an epidemiological survey. On Dec. 30, the city’s health commission issued an emergency circular about treating a novel pneumonia of unknown origin. The next day, China’s National Health Commission sent an expert team to Wuhan for an on-site investigation.

On Jan. 3, China reported the outbreak to the World Health Organization and other countries, including the United States. George F. Gao, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, called Robert R. Redfield, director of the U.S. CDC, to officially inform the United States.

Then, on Jan. 11, the Chinese CDC posted all five COVID-19 genome sequences online to share with the world.

In summary, China reported the outbreak in a timely manner to the WHO and the United States, shared the gene sequences of COVID-19, cooperated with international experts and assisted other countries with their COVID-19 outbreaks.

On Jan. 23, based on a policy decision, China organized, mobilized and implemented a lockdown of Wuhan, and various provinces and cities sent around 350 medical teams comprising 46,000 medical professionals to Wuhan and other parts of Hubei.

At the same time, as advised by the government, most factories suspended production, public transportation was stopped, all entertainment venues were closed and school classes were suspended nationwide. Public activities were prohibited, and people were required to stay at home and wear masks when going out.

All provinces and cities began enforcing strict quarantines to prevent a pandemic. For example, checkpoints were set up in urban residential areas and rural villages alike to keep outsiders away. Only residents with entry cards and no fever were admitted. During this period, the government made great efforts to ensure that food and daily necessities continued to flow to residents.

After two months of hard work, perseverance and sacrifice, the Chinese people won a decisive victory.

China publishes the latest updates on the novel coronavirus every day, including the number of confirmed and suspected cases, recoveries, deaths and known asymptomatic infections across the country, along with a breakdown by individual provinces and cities. The National Health Commission and some other organizations hold news conferences every day so that officials and experts can review the latest developments and answer questions from Chinese and foreign reporters.

As of this writing, China had reported 82,930 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,338 deaths.

Despite these facts, some American politicians continue to smear China for not being transparent and for supposedly fabricating the numbers. Such accusations are blatantly inconsistent with the facts.

China’s response to the epidemic has been scrutinized by the WHO, among others. According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, it is no exaggeration to say that many of China’s approaches have set new benchmarks for epidemic response efforts. He added that while China’s responses have cost it dearly, they have bought time for the world.

At a news conference held in Geneva on April 1, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, made it clear that a large amount of information based on scientific evidence is published every day, including in China. He warned people not to arbitrarily label a country as unwilling to cooperate or of failing to be transparent.

He also listed the COVID-19 research reports he had received: “… one from Germany, one from Singapore, one from the United States, and four from China.”

During the months of fighting the epidemic, China received expressions of support from the leaders of more than 170 countries and the heads of more than 50 international organizations and regional organizations. Moreover, some 80 countries and 10 international organizations have provided substantial assistance to China.

All of this demonstrates the simple truth that people will naturally make fair judgments about right or wrong on their own. 

Recently, Science magazine published research reports by British and American researchers suggesting that China’s measures had successfully broken the COVID-19 transmission chain and purchased valuable response time for other countries. The editor-in-chief of The Lancet told the BBC program “Question Time” that the message from China had been very clear but that Britain had wasted the entire month of February.

The U.S. authorities’ response to the epidemic was also recorded by the media:

On Jan. 15, the U.S. CDC issued a warning about the novel coronavirus pneumonia. On Jan. 25, the U.S. closed its consulate in Wuhan and evacuated its personnel. On Feb. 2, it closed the border to all Chinese citizens and foreigners who had been to China. From Feb. 24 to 28, U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly claimed the outbreak was under control, that there was nothing to panic about, that the coronavirus would miraculously disappear and that the virus was a political hoax perpetrated by Democrats.

On March 13, Trump belatedly declared a state of emergency in the United States. On the 24th, he said he wanted to reopen the country by Easter (April 12).

CNN and others have noted that the Trump team faces a dilemma: If the severe measures needed are taken to stop the epidemic, the economy will not only face a recession but may enter a prolonged depression. On the other hand, if only half the harsh measures are enacted to stop the spread of the virus, America could experience the most severe epidemic in its history.

To put it bluntly, Trump’s choice is this: Protect the economy, or save lives. Which will it be? His dilemma is compounded by the fact that he regards protecting the economy as vital to winning re-election in November.

Comparing the Chinese and American responses to the epidemic, it’s easy to see the hypocrisy in blaming China. When Wuhan was locked down on Jan. 13, there was only one COVID-19 case in the United States. On Feb. 2 when the United States imposed its comprehensive entry ban on China, there were only a dozen confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. If the U.S. government had not been so careless and indifferent to the lives of its people — arrogance arising from its economic strength and medical facilities — it could have easily nipped the epidemic in the bud.

The United States has now been ravaged by COVID-19. As of April 4, it had 300,000 known cases and more than 8,000 deaths from the virus. Trump and other U.S. politicians have issued warnings that the death toll could rise to 100,000, 200,000 or even a million.

How sad that is! The Chinese people sympathize with the American people over the current difficulties and are willing to provide assistance. It is also hoped that American politicians will stop slandering China, and that China and the United States will work together to shoulder the responsibility of defeating the virus to save lives. 

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