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The Covid saga shows anything China does can and will be turned against it

As Beijing relaxes its hard-line zero-Covid policy, the Western angle of attack smoothly shifts

For nearly three years, Beijing enforced an iron-fisted policy of harsh lockdowns and mass testing which sought to stamp Covid-19 out of existence wherever it emerged.

As variants proliferated, however, it became a game of whack-a-mole. Not surprisingly, the Chinese population grew tired and wanted change. The rest of the world moved on and the Chinese wanted to do so as well.

The Western media, however, despite having condemned Beijing’s policy repeatedly as authoritarian and dystopian, did not praise President Xi Jinping’s decision to change course; instead they shifted the narrative onto something else.

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“China’s disappearing data stokes fears of hidden Covid wave” reads a headline in the Financial Times, accusing Beijing of a political coverup and facing a mounting disaster. China’s Looming ‘Tsunami’ of Covid Cases Will Test Its Hospitals” says the New York Times, while previously the US government also chipped in, with a CNBC headline reading: “U.S. criticizes China’s zero Covid strategy, says Beijing needs to boost vaccination among elderly.”

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A man has his routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.
China is shifting away from zero-Covid

The intention of this narrative shift is obvious. Now that they’re done bashing China from one angle – its restrictive zero-Covid policy – they’ve moved on to another, framing the retreat from the policy as a political defeat for Xi and whipping up fear of a massive outbreak.

That’s because for the Western powers, the issue was never truly about Covid at any point, or how China chooses to deal with it. Their issue has always been with China’s government. At every turn during the pandemic, since it first originated in the city of Wuhan, Western officials and the media loyal to them sought to score political points against Beijing.

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Since the very beginning, the Covid-19 pandemic has been weaponized by the US as a means of shaping public opinion against China to fulfil its geopolitical objectives. Because of this, Covid has arguably become the single most politicized and toxic pandemic in human history. No matter what China does, there has been a steady line of attacks against it which have sought to use the pandemic to discredit its government.

When it first began in Wuhan, the narrative was that the pandemic was a failure of China’s governance and political system. The assumption in this reporting was that such a disaster could not happen in a transparent Western-style system. When this was proven false a few months later, as a worldwide outbreak followed, the narrative turned (led by the Trump administration) into a blame game which sought to vilify China as culpable to the rest of the world.

In Western countries at least, this narrative worked in turning public opinion against Beijing and securing compliance with Washington’s objectives. The UK government, for one, made the decision to U-turn on its previous China-friendly policies. Following this, the White House aggressively pushed the lab leak theory, weaponizing the origins of the virus against Beijing even further. The US repeatedly demanded ‘transparency’ on the origins of the virus in joint political statements, and used the World Health Organization as a political stick.

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Health workers wait to test passengers for Covid-19 after their arrival at Hongqiao railway station on December 6, 2022, Shanghai, China
China announces major changes to Covid restrictions

After the West moved on from Covid, however, China kept enforcing its own zero-Covid policy, which was soon spun into a narrative that such lockdowns were oppressive, authoritarian, and inhumane. When Chinese people started protesting them, many anti-China voices got their hopes up prematurely it would lead to the government’s downfall. It did not.

And it is no surprise that China’s relaxation of its zero-Covid policy is not being met with approval either. The angle of attack has simply shifted. The same groups and news organizations that had attacked China’s lockdowns now play up the danger of a pandemic disaster in the country and a huge loss of life. This abrupt change of course shows these critics have no real interest in the policies that might work best for the Chinese people, and only have a vested interest in seeing the government fail. In the world framed by these reports, China must always be, no matter what the circumstances are, wrong and on the brink of disaster. The Communist Party is bad for both enforcing its hard-line Covid policies and for relaxing the restrictions. Xi Jinping is a tyrannical authoritarian leader for imposing those rules in the first place, but when he relaxes them, it means he’s then weak and his rule is losing legitimacy.

If it wasn’t obvious, it should be now: China can’t win. That’s because for nearly three years, the pandemic has been used as a full-scale propaganda and public opinion campaign to tarnish the country where possible, and it doesn’t end just like that.

December 17, 2022 at 05:27AM
RT

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