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Opinion | Competing Narratives: Why China Continues To Win

Picture Credit: National Review, President Donald Trump meets with China’s President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The narrative is changing right in front of our eyes. Following in the wake of the White House’s decision to suspend funds to the World Health Organization (WHO) over the organization’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak and relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the mainstream narrative has shifted away from pinning blame on responsible actors. Instead of exploring timelines that show a direct correlation between the misleading messaging espoused by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, it has become more convenient for some to blame the reliable scapegoat, President Trump. The most scathing of these articles, “W.H.O., Now Trump’s Scapegoat, Warned About Coronavirus Early and Often”, published in the New York Times just days after the President pulled funding from the organization, eschews sound timelines and makes two very bold assertions.

  1. From the authors’, Richard Pérez-Peña and Donald G. McNeil Jr., own intuition:

“…a close look at the record shows that the W.H.O. acted with greater foresight and speed than many national governments, and more than it had shown in previous epidemics. And while it made mistakes, there is little evidence that the W.H.O. is responsible for the disasters that have unfolded in Europe and then the United States.”

There was no ‘foresight.’ The WHO, having catered to CCP propaganda, has been playing catching up since day one, as seen by the organization’s decision to ignore Taiwan’s warning about Human-to-Human transmission on December 31st. This sentiment is best described by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and supported by their various timelines outlining the WHO’s inaction:

2. Concerning the WHO:

“Right now, the strategic and tactical approach in China is the correct one,” Dr. Michael Ryan, the W.H.O.’s chief of emergency response, said on Feb. 18. “You can argue whether these measures are excessive or restrictive on people, but there is an awful lot at stake here in terms of public health — not only the public health of China but of all people in the world.”

The article is steadfast in its admiration for Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a doctor sent by the Chinese government to Wuhan to investigate the coronavirus, but makes no mention to Chinese whistleblowers, such as Dr. Li Wenliang, who perished from the virus after being forced by authorities to commit acts of self-criticism. The WHO praises the CCP’s ‘restrictive’ tactics. The same tactics that allowed government officials to put padlocks on peoples’ doors and issue internal travel passports. China’s strict limit on the freedom of movement of its citizens is not its only crime.

Although not indicated in the article, the CCP has been waging a campaign against ‘misinformation’ and ‘rumors’, which has led to the disappearances of several citizen journalists, such as Li Zehua and Chen Quiushi, who exposed the true magnitude of the epidemic in Wuhan. The authors also paint a picture that makes the PRC and WHO appear transparent and proactive. For instance, once the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre published the virus’ genome sequence, this information was used by the WHO’s partners to design a ‘blueprint’ that would allow any lab around the world to replicate it. However, the article fails to mention that soon after the collaboration, the state moved in and hindered the Centre’s research capacity.

As the American political discourse is now entering a period of ‘self-reflection’ following the decline in hospitalization rates in previous hot zones, such as New York City, it is important to remember the facts.

For anyone who wants to assume that the Trump Administration hasn’t acted in an aggressive manner, just keep in mind the following:

As early as January 6th, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) requested to send a team into China. On January 17th, the CDC and Department of Homeland Security began screening for ill patients traveling back from China at major U.S airports as the WHO was still debating whether or not human-to-human transmission was possible. On January 31st, President Trump issued a temporary travel ban on China.

The WHO, and its director-general, who has previously exalted China’s mission to become a ‘global leader in times of crisis’, has done what any liberal international organization does best: taken ALL member states at their word. We live in a realist world. A world in which states’ intentions are not as clear as day. A world in which the CCP has been sending out a flurry of misinformation in a hope that no one, let alone their own citizens, question its legitimacy. Misinformation that international actors, such as the WHO, have relayed.

Opposite to what Pérez-Peña and McNeil would like to have their readers believe, the PRC was never in the ‘fog’ about any aspect of the coronavirus. They have been shaping the narrative since mid-November, when the first known reported case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan (refuted by the CCP). I only ask that the American public recognizes the miscarriage of blame.

Tim Kennedy is a graduating senior at GW. The opinions expressed on this blog are his own and do not represent the official views of the GW College Republicans.

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