When China turned on damage control mode, media helped country with misleading Coronavirus news

  • China misled the world about Coronavirus outbreak

  • Chinese media tweaked the truth and spread misleading news content

The Novel Coronavirus has infected more than 1,200,000 people and killed over 70,000 individuals globally. From celebrities to politicians, the COVID-19 has affected millions of people and the recent victim of this deadly virus is Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola's mother, who died on Monday after being infected by Coronavirus.

The novel coronavirus was first detected in China's Wuhan city where it appeared to have made its first entry into the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, from where it started infecting local residents. Doctors in Wuhan hospital detected the outbreak in December 2019, including the whistleblower late ophthalmologist Li Wenliang but authorities silenced them and asked them not to spread the 'rumours'.

Three weeks later on Dec 31, 2019, China first informed the World Health Organization which started the probe but for months, Wuhan authorities claimed that there was no evidence of human to human transmission. In mid-January, the first case of Coronavirus infection outside China was reported in Thailand and on January 21, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first case of the coronavirus in the US.

US covid19
Covid19 Pixabay

The Chinses officials and state-run media

In March China's Communist Party focused on damage control and decided to expel journalists from three major US publications. They said that it would revoke press credentials for American journalists who work for the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal as their credentials were set to expire in 2020. Meanwhile, the state-run media houses regularly aired propaganda toning down the impact.

It should be noted that Zhao Lijian, spokesman and deputy director-general of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs' information department tweeted a link to a conspi­racy website which claimed that US was responsible for the virus outbreak. At that time, he had 287,000 followers, while Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying had 146,700 followers and Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times had 175,000.

Later in one report written by 29 Chinese medical doctors and scientists, the authors shared the findings from a study of patients who were suspected of having been infected with COVID-19 and had been admitted to a Wuhan hospital. The report claimed that by January 2, 41 of these patients had been "laboratory-confirmed" as infected with the virus, while two-thirds of those people "had been exposed to the Huanan market."

Later, another contradictory study, published on ChinaXiv.org, revealed that the market was likely not the ground zero for the virus, rather it was imported from outside. The study by Chinese researchers was revised on February 21 and it was found that neither version of the research suggested COVID-19 had originated outside China.

The starting of new 'Fake News' season

When experts started blaming China for covering up death toll and misleading the world about the Coronavirus on February 23, the People's Daily republished a Global Times article titled, "Japanese TV report sparks speculations in China that COVID-19 may have originated in US". As reported by Politico, in the original version which was removed from Global Times' site, it was stated:

"A report from a Japanese TV station that suspected some of the 14,000 Americans died of influenza may have unknowingly [sic] contracted the coronavirus has gone viral on Chinese social media, stoking fears and speculations in China that the novel coronavirus may have originated in the US.

"The report, by TV Asahi Corporation of Japan, suggested that the US government may have failed to grasp how rampant the virus have gone [sic] on the US soil.
"The story sparked various conspiracy theories on [sic] Chinese cyberspace. The Military World Games were held in Wuhan in October. 'Perhaps the US delegates brought the coronavirus to Wuhan, and some mutation occurred to the virus, making it more deadly and contagious, and causing a wide­spread outbreak this year,' a user posted on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

"[An] international relations professor at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, noted that global virologists are working to track the origin of the virus, including the intel­ligence agencies. Netizens are encouraged to actively par­take in discussions, but preferably [sic] in a rational fashion."

On March 4, the state-run People's Daily's reprint of this article was used as the basis for a piece published on conspiracy website GlobalResearch.ca, with a title: "China's Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?"

This article further stated-

"The Western media quickly took the stage and laid out the official narrative for the outbreak of the new coronavirus which appeared to have begun in China, claiming it to have originated with animals at a wet market in Wuhan."

"In fact, the origin was for a long time unknown but it appears likely now, according to Chinese and Japanese reports, that the virus originated elsewhere, from multiple locations, but began to spread widely only after being introduced to the market.

"More to the point, it appears that the virus did not originate in China and, according to reports in Japanese and other media, may have originated in the US."

Even though the republished report claimed after conducting a study on the Coronavirus, researchers "came to the same independent conclusions as to the Japanese researchers – that the virus did not begin in China but was introduced there from the outside," and it was not the "conclusion" of the scientists who earlier posted their research on ChinaXiv.

On February 27, citing a February 27 story on Xinhuanet, Global Research claimed, "China's top respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan said on January 27 ... 'Though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China'." They translated this for the readers: "But that is Chinese for 'it originated someplace else, in another country'." But neither Zhong nor Xinhuanet said anything like this.

On March 11, Global Research published a report -- "COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the US." In this article, it added, "Japanese and Taiwanese epidemiologists and pharmacologists have deter­mined that the new coronavirus could have originated in the US."

Global researchers also mentioned in their article that "CDC totally shut down the U.S. Military's main bio-lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, due to an absence of safeguards against pathogen leakages, issuing a complete 'cease and desist' order to the military." As evidence, Global Research had posted a screenshot of an August 5 New York Times headline, "Deadly Germ Research Is Shut Down at Army Lab Over Safety Concerns; Problems with disposal of dangerous materials led the government to suspend research at the military's leading biodefence centre." But the point is NY Times did not post the centre had been "totally shut down."

Social media effect during Coronavirus emergency

On March 13, Zhao tweeted links to the Global Research articles and said, "Just take a few minutes to read one more article. This is so astonishing that it changed many things I used to believe in. Please retweet to let more people know about it."

On the same day, South China Morning Post reported that the topic -- "Zhao Lijian sent out five consecutive tweets questioning the US" had been viewed more than four million times on Weibo, while NY Times reported it had been viewed more than 160 million times and Zhao's Twitter followers have increased from 287,000 to more than 500,000.

So much for making a lie a truth as nobody knows the truth. But China has succeeded in creating apprehensions in the minds of people about the origin of COVID-19.

Related topics : Coronavirus Fake news