The Fallacy of China’s Support During the COVID-19 crisis

When hearing the lastest COVID-19 news from China, one is led to believe that the virus has pretty much been defeated and that the Chinese modus operandi is currently to help save the rest of the globe out of the goodness of its heart.

China’s Helping Hand

Indeed, China is not only sending its scientists to Europe these days but, respiratory equipment and masks, while also providing its supposed blueprint for fighting the coronavirus in four languages ​​worldwide. China’s assistance, however, is accompanied by the usual propaganda that aims to make Beijing appear as it has successfully stopped the virus from spreading. This is an interesting and disturbing attempt to conduct a revisionist history for several reasons.

When the new virus first appeared in central China’s Wuhan in mid-November, information about the threat was ignored, evidence was destroyed, doctors were intimidated — or simply disappeared — and laboratories were closed. The Chinese population and the world were kept in the dark.

This was followed by the dramatic witnessing of a total shutdown of Wuhan and the entire province of Hubei two months later. To be more precise, it was a Chinese version of a shutdown, not to be confused with the European nor American version. Overnight, people got literally stuck in their respective locations. Car traffic, subways, trains, buses stopped without any warning. Only one person per family was allowed to leave their own house for shopping while police and neighborhood “committees” checked in front of the house entrances for anyone disobeying. China also utilized its surveillance technology. Anyone who could not show a green QR code at checkpoints on their smartphone was not allowed to pass.

China’s Dubious Claims to Have Beaten COVID-19

Now, China has claimed that the number of infections was no longer increasing. And yet, other nations have shown that China and its particular way of dealing with the virus are not the only way. This is proven by South Korea and Taiwan, who are fighting the virus highly effectively without lockdowns. Both countries were once dictatorships, today they are living democracies and Japan, in particular, seems to have found efficient ways to fight the virus without fabricating figures, or utilizing the Stasi-esque-methods China has been applying.

Nevertheless, Europe should be pleased that China is now offering its support and accept it with gratitude. However, it should not be naive. When Xi Jinping offers Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte his support, he is channeling his inner Machiavelli. Jinping’s agenda is not global health and freedom but to further promote Chinese influence in Europe. He is rightfully applying the old saying “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

All Praise Great Leader Xi?

That is true for China right now, especially in Europe, and when the European Union has been a complete no show, whether in terms of equipment or economic measures for the time after the lockdown is over for example with Eurobonds. However, support from China remains tied to the condition that the recipients no longer criticize Chinese human rights abuses, a price some states simply are not willing to pay. Another way of showing gratitude is even to praise Xi openly.

Meanwhile, China will endeavor to open up markets to its technology companies, which now offer software to track contacts and identify places with an increased risk of infection. This is the Chinese model and yet it still remains somewhat inconceivable within liberal Europe. Moreover, China is aggressively promoting traditional Chinese medicine as part of its offer of help.

The criticism of China’s support is misplaced. Particularly on the basis that “they are responsible for the virus.” Their help is appreciated, wherever required. However, the price-tag the support yields cannot equate to being overly credulous about China’s current situation, which remains dubious. Most importantly, however, China initially covered up the corona crisis and still does not offer the world real transparency, so its claims should be taken with immense skepticism.