Australian news, and some related international items

Exposing the false claims about China and coronavirus

Debunking Trump and Corporate Media’s WHO/China Coverup Conspiracy Theories FAIR

JOSHUA CHO  FAIR has criticized the plausibility of various origin theories regarding Covid-19 (4/17/20, 5/7/20), and of unfounded allegations of a Chinese cover-up laundered by corporate media (4/2/20, 4/9/20). Other persistent myths are allegations of Chinese manipulation of the World Health Organization (WHO), and blaming Chinese secrecy for the lack of early action on containing the coronavirus.

The Trump administration suspended funding to WHO in April—the UN’s primary infectious disease–fighting body—accusing it of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” and of taking China’s allegedly deceptive claims about its handling of Covid-19 at “face value.” But corporate media had already been boosting these same talking points.

The Wall Street Journal’s “The World Health Organization Draws Flak for Coronavirus Response” (2/12/20) effectively accused WHO of being “too deferential to China in its handling of the new virus,” and criticized WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus for “bending to Beijing” after lauding China’s unquestionably effective swift quarantine of 60 million people, and for declaring that “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response” and identifying the virus in “record time.” The Journal further expounded the conspiracy theory of a seemingly omnipotent China having WHO under its thumb:

Over its decades of battling epidemics, the WHO has rarely had to deal with an entity as politically and economically powerful as China today. It can’t afford to alienate the country’s leadership, whose clout and financial largess it aims to attract to global health causes. It needs Beijing’s cooperation in preventing a full-blown pandemic—and this may not be the last time. China is the source of many emerging pathogens, which jump from animals to humans in its teeming live markets and can cause deadly epidemics.

According to the Journal’s logic, when WHO praises China for an effective response containing Covid-19 and giving the rest of the world ample time to take health precautions, it is “compromising its own epidemic response standards, eroding its global authority, and sending the wrong message to other countries that might face future epidemics.” When Dr. Bruce Aylward—a Canadian medical expert with 30 years of experience combating polio, Ebola and other global health emergencies—concluded that he “didn’t see anything that suggested manipulation of numbers,” after leading a team of experts visiting China for WHO, that can’t be an accurate observation. For corporate journalists, it can only be because he was duped by the devious Chinese government “underreporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease” (Bloomberg4/1/20).

The Journal flimsily explained that China wields such formidable control over the WHO because China is a “future source of funds and a partner with which to tackle the biggest global health problems,” and not as a “current donor.” That would be because a cursory examination of  WHO’s funding would reveal that the US donated more than 10 times more money to WHO ($893 million) than China ($86 million), despite the US having almost $200 million in arrears before suspending payments (Axios4/15/20).

Neither does the Journal explain how or why WHO could possibly withhold information from Western nations even if it wanted to, when its leadership is stacked with Americans and Europeans, and 15 US officials were embedded with the WHO in Geneva, given that the US is the most “politically and economically powerful” nation on Earth. This makes the Trump administration’s declaration of the US terminating its membership in WHO after threats to permanently cut funding especially egregious.

Nor can the Journal explain the source of China’s fearsome influence over independent and prestigious medical journals like Nature (5/4/20), Science (3/28/20) and the Lancet (3/7/20), which also credited the effectiveness and transparency of China’s response for saving thousands of lives (CGTN5/1/205/10/20). Does China’s mysterious and awe-inspiring influence extend over Western medical journals as well?

When Foreign Policy (5/12/20) reported on the exclusive scoop of a leaked dataset of coronavirus cases and deaths from the Chinese military’s National University of Defense Technology, it confirmed that the leaked information “matches” the publicly available numbers the Chinese government posts online—which poses an inconvenience to those spouting conspiracy theories of a Chinese government coverup. Corporate media accounts of Chinese deception and fake statistics also fail to explain how the Chinese government possesses the fantastical ability to deceive governments and independent medical experts around the world, even if it wanted to. As FAIR’s Jim Naureckas (4/2/20) pointed out earlier:

The reality is that it’s very hard to hide an epidemic. Stopping a virus requires identifying and isolating cases of infection, and if you pretend to have done so when you really haven’t, the uncaught cases will grow exponentially. Maintaining a hidden set of real statistics and another set for show would require the secret collusion of China’s 2 million doctors and 3 million nurses—the kind of improbable cooperation that gives conspiracy theories a bad name…. If China is merely pretending to have the coronavirus under control, the pathogen will rapidly surge as people resume interacting with their communities. Once international travel is restored, it will be quite obvious which countries do and don’t have effective management of Covid-19.

Countries revising their figures upon receiving new information is to be expected, and is not necessarily evidence of deceit, as plenty of nations besides China revise their data upwards. Yet only China is singled out as being exceptionally deceptive. For example, in the same week New York revised its death toll upwards by nearly 3,800, China’s adding almost 1,300 dead to its Wuhan data was presented as a possible coverup (Politico4/14/20Guardian4/17/20). The Moon of Alabama blog (4/1/20) explained some of the complexities in reporting numbers during a pandemic in real-time:

Does one include co-morbids or not in the count? What about casualties of a car accident that also test positive for Covid-19 when they die? What about those who died with Covid-19 symptoms but could not be tested for lack of test kits? Are the tests really working reliably?… What about asymptomatic cases that test positive. Are these false positives, or do these people really have the virus? One can only know that by testing them a month later for antibodies………

this manipulation of public opinion by the US government and corporate media appears to be working. According to a recent Ipsos survey, more than 30% of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic (even though new research indicates that travel from New York City was the primary source of the US outbreak, with New York’s outbreak originating in Europe). Pew Research (4/21/20) found that around two-thirds of Americans have an unfavorable view of China, which is the most negative rating for the country since Pew began asking the question in 2005. This suggests that public opinion has been turned against China, despite it being the first to detect the virus, alert the world and provide a model for containing it.

June 21, 2020 - Posted by | General News

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