New Delhi: The biggest debate, globally, right now is whether China is to be blamed for the coronavirus pandemic. US President Donald Trump has been referring to the Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” and even US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the virus as the “Wuhan virus”. If one sees commentaries from the West, more than a bit of resentment against China is visible.
The Chinese, on the other hand, are retaliating by calling it racism and discrimination. They are also propagating rival conspiracy theories, the most popular being that the virus originated in the US and was brought to China by the US military during world military games in Wuhan last year.
Similarly, theories that the virus originated in Italy have been floating around in Chinese social media and TV channels. Laura Rosenberger, the director of Washington-based Alliance for Securing Democracy, who studies authoritarian interference in democracies, tweeted that, much like Russian propaganda, China’s strategy now seems to be to “spread multiple, conflicting conspiracy theories, not to convince people of an explanation but to create the idea that it’s impossible to know the truth.”
China should have been more transparent
By early January, some doctors had discovered the Covid-19, but the news was suppressed and the whistleblowers were punished. The WHO also didn’t acknowledge the virus. On 14 January, WHO tweeted that there was no human-to-human transmission of the virus. It was only on 21 January that the Chinese government acknowledged the virus for the first time. Then on 23 January, the Chinese government announced a lockdown of Wuhan.
However, it was too late. The government should have been more transparent about the virus as till then, several people had travelled between cities in China for the Chinese New year holidays. Mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, said 5 million people had gone in and out of Wuhan by 23 January for the new year holidays.
Today, it is proven that the virus didn’t originate in a lab. All the evidence suggests that the virus originated in the wet wildlife markets of Wuhan. The virus probably jumped from bats to pangolins and when the pangolins were consumed by humans, the virus was transmitted to them. Consuming pangolin scale is thought to aid sexual performance in Chinese traditional medicine.
Many scientists had warned of such consequences and asked for a ban on wildlife trade following the SARS outbreak in 2003 but the trade was banned only for some time.
The Chinese government came under heavy criticism for not listening to the scientists and then hiding the virus once it had come out. A law professor in Beijing, Xu Zhangrun, criticised the government in a blogpost and said, “Coronavirus has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance”.
Xu Zhangrun’s blog has been taken down and he has gone missing.
The Chinese government has been arresting people for speaking out. This kind of authoritarian system is what leads to such pandemics. The information about the virus can only be hidden in a dictatorial nation like China.
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