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Issue #1906      March 9, 2020

Coronavirus

A Political Tool of The West

As of early March, there are thought to have been a cumulative total of around 90,000 COVID-19 cases around the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports 89,527 confirmed cases* – and around 40,000 active cases.

The vast majority of cases have been reported in China, where thanks to the Chinese government’s effective response and the hard work and sacrifice of the Chinese people, the number of active cases in China (and so, for now, the world total of active cases) has been declining since around the 18th February.

The report of the WHO-China Joint Mission carried out from the 16th-24th of February states: “In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.

“ [...] as the outbreak evolved, and knowledge was gained, a science and risk-based approach was taken to tailor implementation. Specific containment measures were adjusted to the provincial, county and even community context, the capacity of the setting, and the nature of novel coronavirus transmission there.

“ [...] Achieving China’s exceptional coverage with and adherence to these containment measures has only been possible due to the deep commitment of the Chinese people to collective action in the face of this common threat.

“ [...] the Joint Mission estimates that this truly all-of-Government and all-of-society approach that has been taken in China has averted or at least delayed hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases in the country. By extension, the reduction that has been achieved in the force of COVID-19 infection in China has also played a significant role in protecting the global community and creating a stronger first line of defence against international spread.”

Yet despite these impressive achievements and the immense tragedy suffered by the Chinese people, some foreign governments and media have taken this as an opportunity to attack China.

An episode of the ABC’s Q&A on the 24th February about the China-Australia relationship became a free-for-all attack on the Chinese diplomat Wang Xining over disparate issues, mostly the coronavirus and Xinjiang issues. Wang gave clear and reasoned answers to many questions, including many leading questions and non sequiturs, but was treated with a level of hostility and disrespect by the other panellists and audience that is difficult to imagine being given to a diplomat of most other countries (check page five for our full report on the Q&A episode).

It is interesting to note that the Xinjiang issue, like the coronavirus issue, is one where the Chinese government’s policies and outcomes have been roundly praised by the majority of non-US aligned governments and organisations. The most commonly-given example of this is the two letters sent to the UN about this issue: one praising China’s policies from thirty-seven countries, including many Muslim-majority countries, and one criticising the policies from eighteen European countries plus US allies Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Canada, and no Muslim-majority countries whatsoever.

Contrary to the facts, an elaborate and sinister propaganda narrative has been built up by the imperialist media and governments to try to turn their people against China, and justify economic and military aggression towards the People’s Republic. The attempt to create a similar narrative around the COVID-19 epidemic must be opposed.

Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has named south Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan as being the countries of greatest concern in the struggle to contain the outbreak. However, of these countries and China – the five countries with the greatest number of cases – only China and Iran have been put on the “do not travel” list by the Australian government. The other three countries, all considered Australian (and US) political allies unlike China and Iran, have only been classed as “exercise a high degree of caution” – the second lowest category of risk.

This could be an example of the worrying trend by the US-led camp towards cynically using the tragedy of the epidemic as a political tool to target the same states already hit by criminal sanctions and aggression.

The only way the epidemic can handled is by taking a rational, scientific approach, rather than one based on fear and political opportunism.

Much of the mainstream media has focussed on fearmongering rather than reporting facts. A video of a report on the virus by DPRK (North Korean) state television, uploaded to YouTube by the UK’s Channel 4 News, received many surprised comments, highlighting the contrasting approach taken by Western media. The top three comments* by YouTube viewers read:

  • “This is crazy. We have to watch North Korean news outlet to get this basic info.”
  • “North Korea is reporting way better than western media on this.”
  • “This feels like a throw back to the 80s or 90s when news anchors were professional and tells you facts instead of opinion”.

The DPRK has so far had zero cases of COVID-19, but it is one of many countries suffering under US-imposed sanctions which limit access to vital resources including medical supplies. An outbreak in such targeted countries, also including Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria, would have the potential to be even more damaging than in other countries.

We must demand an end to these illegal sanctions which are already exacerbating poverty, sickness and death among the peoples of these countries. Access to medicine is a human right and not a political lever to be used by foreign states.

While China’s effective measures to keep the virus under control have meant that the Chinese outbreak in particular has ceased to be a major threat to the rest of the world, it is the outbreaks in other countries less capable of mobilising the whole society around a common cause, which pose the greatest risk of the outbreak becoming out of control worldwide. If the US and allied governments like Australia’s persist in their politically-motivated efforts to directly inhibit the capacity of countries like the DPRK, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria to access basic resources and thus to prevent and treat the virus, then not only the suffering and death of the peoples of those countries, but the prolongation of the pandemic around the world, would be on their hands.

* Information accessed 3rd March.

Next article – Australia funds US Military– Tindal RAAF Base upgraded

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