Is it likely that China, a country of 1.4 billion people living close to each other, has barely been touched by one of the world’s most contagious pandemics ever when countries like Italy have already witnessed over 18,000 deaths?
Recent reports of thousands of ash urns being delivered to crematoriums in Wuhan, where the virus originated, have raised serious questions about the veracity of what we have been told so far.
Despite spectacular cities like Beijing and Shanghai, in many ways, China remains an underdeveloped country. A trip down its back streets and rural areas confirms this. It is also a police state whose specialty is lying. It persecutes all who believe in free speech and democracy. Those who publicly disagree often “disappear.” The 1989 Tiananmen Square events have not been outgrown; they have merely been moved behind closed doors.
Intellectuals, journalists, and democrats are still incarcerated and executed for things we wouldn’t even consider misdemeanors. According to Amnesty International, “China remained the world’s leading executioner,” with thousands put to death each year.
Lying and Denying
When China isn’t lying, it is denying. One of its more recent denials relates to the persecution of over a million Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province. It is believed that since 2014, hundreds of thousands of these Turkic-speaking Muslims have been moved to “re-educating” camps. Their “curriculum” includes renouncing their language and Islamic faith, and swearing allegiance to the Chinese Communist regime.
The treatment and subsequent death of Dr. Li Wenliang – the coronavirus whistleblower – has yet again underscored how very protective the Chinese government is of its image as a perfect “people’s’ republic.”
We now know that Dr. Wenliang had alerted his colleagues about the existence of a SARS-like virus as early as December 30. He had also shared his concerns on China’s version of Twitter. He was then reportedly arrested and threatened for making “false statements.” He contracted the virus and died on February 7. The Chinese government bears full responsibility.
Authoritarianism kills. China ferociously muzzled its citizens like Dr. Li Wenliang who tried to sound the alarm about the coronavirus outbreak. We are all paying the price.
And now this.https://t.co/DqFY90rd6I
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) April 5, 2020
The Chinese Communist Party may have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last 30 years through its massive urbanization programs, but let’s be frank – Chinese domestic and foreign policy are driven by visions of grandeur and Chinese world domination through economic and cultural imperialism.
And thanks to Western complacency and geopolitical ineptness over recent years it seems like it might get its wish sooner rather than later.
China as Global ‘Leader’
In recent weeks, China has stepped up closer to the podium as a global “leader,” dispatching hundreds of thousands of face masks and other equipment around the world and offering to send its doctors into “viral war zones.” No one can deny that such offers are desperately needed and, on the face of it, a kind gesture. That said, one cannot help also being suspicious of such benevolence from one of the world’s most blatant violators of human rights.
Can a state that executes its own citizens on a whim genuinely care about the plight of the rest of the world?
The truth is that for China, the chaos of this pandemic is an opportunity to undo some of the damage it knows it is responsible for. It is also a chance for Beijing to offer strong leadership at a time when the world urgently needs it, and to insert itself into vulnerable economies. At the moment, the Chinese government is in total damage control, and we need to beware of its “gifts” no matter how tempting. Its “generosity” should not be taken at face value.
Lack of Transparancy
China’s recent claims that the United States was responsible for COVID-19, without evidence, shows how desperate the country is to preserve the narrative and facade of an effective state. Having to deal with the fact that yet another virus has emerged from its shores cannot be an easy pill for the Chinese Communist Party to swallow.
In 1996, the avian influenza H5N1 emerged out of China Guangdong Province. Eleven years later, SARS came out of the same province. Now COVID-19 originated from Wuhan. In all cases, the Chinese government showed little transparency.
Countries have been reluctant to condemn China for obvious reasons. Economic ties, however, should never trump the security, wellbeing, and dignity of citizens. They must not prevent us from calling out such crimes for fear of offending our client. This is what is happening. Billions of people have been affected because others have lied. When we don’t speak out, we acquiesce.
Recent Sinophobia has been hurtful and alienating to Chinese heritage throughout the world. References to the “Chinese virus” are cruel and stigmatize a whole race of people at a time when many average Chinese are equally furious at the lack of transparency by their government. We must remember that at the end of the day, they do not represent, nor are responsible for, the actions of the Chinese Communist Party.
The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect those of his employers or associates.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.