03/21/2020, 08.00
CHINA
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Zhu Zhiqun: Beijing has not yet won the coronavirus propaganda war

China’s Orwellian experiment to fight the virus is working at home, but cannot be replicated in Europe or the United States. Except for Italy and Spain, no major western country is praising China’s fight against the pandemic.

 

Washington (AsiaNews) – For Zhiqun Zhu, an expert on Chinese affairs at Bucknell University in the United States, China is far from being seen as a global leader in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic. In the West, only Italy and Spain seem to have bought President Xi Jinping's "victory narrative”. For the scholar, Beijing’s approach to fight the COVID-19 virus cannot be fully replicated in Europe or the United States because their respective political and cultural conditions are too different. Professor Zhu’s interview follows.

“I don't think China is winning the propaganda war internationally. So much is still uncertain. Even domestically,” said Zhiqun Zhu, professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University in the United States, speaking to AsiaNews.

Prof Zhu, who is a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, notes that even at home, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been strongly criticised for not disclosing information about the infection in a timely manner and for crushing dissenting voices.

Many Wuhan physicians, including Li Wenliang (who later died from the virus) and Ai Fen, director of Wuhan Central Hospital's emergency department, criticised the authorities for hiding the truth about the spread of COVID-19.

Intellectuals like Xu Zhiyong, Xu Zhangrun and He Weifang have also said that that a free press would have saved many more human lives.

For Zhu, “the draconian measures to shut down Wuhan and restrict mobility nationally did succeed to contain the virus within China, and for that, many in China (and outside) give credit to the CCP.” However, Beijing’s approach cannot be fully replicated in the West. Their political and cultural conditions are too different. For example, few people in the United States wear masks to protect themselves and others from contagion and US authorities do little to impose their use.

The same is true for Europe. Governments there struggle to keep people at home as China did in its great Orwellian experiment. This is clear in Italy, where the imposition of temporary and limited military regulations have not stopped people from having contacts.

With the exception of the Italian and Spanish governments, Western democracies are careful not to buy into President Xi Jinping's "victory narrative”. In the US, President Donald Trump is not alone in attacking Beijing’s crisis management, especially in its early stages.

According to a Gallup poll conducted last month, only 33 per cent of Americans have a favourable opinion of China, down from 53 per cent in 2018. German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that it was Europe that came to China’s rescue at the start of the epidemic.

“China's offer to help Italy when EU countries turned their backs on Rome certainly helps China's image in some parts of Europe,” Zhu explained. However, “the conspiracy theory that the US military athletes brought the virus to China does not help China at all.”

In any event, “the Trump Administration racist labelling of the disease ‘Chinese virus’ is totally unacceptable.”

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