The Shakespearean cliché “What’s in a name” has a new answer: “Everything.” Yes, the “Wuhan virus” by any other name would be just as deadly but naming it for its place of origin is important and the right thing to do.
The whole world – repeat the whole world – is suffering because China caused a global pandemic. It hid the facts in the early stages, destroyed samples, silenced its doctors who sounded the alarm, refused to share information with other countries in time and used its clout in the World Health Organisation to underplay the human-to-human transmission.
The great Chinese cover-up allowed the virus to spread exponentially for weeks. In that time 5 million Wuhan residents were allowed to leave the city without any medical checks. They travelled within China, spreading the virus to other cities and ultimately to other countries.
China’s Lies And Propaganda About Coronavirus
“China Lied, People Died” is a well-deserved Twitter hashtag for China’s malign behaviour. Countries have been sanctioned and punished for far less.
Having controlled the virus at home—or so they claim—China is now cynically exploiting the suffering and confusion in other countries to evade responsibility and install alternate narratives. Historical record is being rewritten under our very noses.
China has stooped to dangerous lies that the virus was only “discovered” in China and did not originate in China. That the US army might have brought it to Wuhan when its teams visited the region for the Military World Games in October. Latest in this regard is the claim that the coronavirus symptoms appeared in Italy earlier than in China.
On the other side, China is trying to refurbish its image by “donating” medical supplies. But even that may be a partial lie. Italy, a country that’s seen more deaths now than China, got some supplies but it was aid with “Chinese characteristics” with built-in promises to avoid criticism of China’s handling of the virus.
China is desperate and deeply worried about its image. The fact that anyone with an ability to read and decipher will blame a potential global economic meltdown to China’s bad decisions frightens the regime.
What if the whole world actually comes together and rethinks its engagement with China instead of just Donald Trump?
So China must “save face” by whatever means necessary. The disinformation campaign mounted by Chinese ambassadors from South Africa to Serbia has gone into high gear. It must be fought.
How to Fight the Chinese Propaganda on Coronavirus
A good place to start is the name. Calling it the China or Wuhan virus is factual, scientifically sound, and not racist as some claim.
The responsibility for its spread lies squarely with the Chinese regime headed by president-for-life Xi Jinping.
Countless other diseases have been named after places in which they originated – Ebola was named after Ebola River in the Congo, Nipah Virus after the village Sungai Nipah in Malaysia. Then you have Guinea Worm, German Measles, Ottoman Plague, Spanish Flu and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS – the list is long. Even Delhi Belly should be counted.
Remember, that China’s state-owned media itself was calling the latest outbreak the Wuhan Virus in December before the party apparatchiks saw it as a chink in their armour and clamped down.
Chinese Wet Markets Should be Permanently Shut
The science behind the pandemic points directly to the miserable conditions in the Chinese “wet markets” or live animal markets where traditional livestock – seafood and poultry – are butchered and sold alongside exotic species in unsanitary conditions, creating “zoonotic diseases” when viruses from animals can jump to humans. And jumped they have at least twice in this century.
In the case of the Wuhan virus, the transfer was most likely from a bat to a pangolin to Patient 0. SARS, which also originated in China in 2002-03, spread from bats to civet cats, and finally to humans. It affected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries and killed 774 people.
China closed down the wet markets for a few months in response but when WHO declared the SARS virus contained, the Chinese government lifted the ban.
It was business as usual.
This cannot be allowed to happen again. World leaders must use all the moral and economic pressure to force China to act decisively given the catastrophe that is the Wuhan virus. Unless China takes action now, the world will face more Coronas in the future.
Let’s Not Get Politically Correct About Coronavirus
Some liberals are perturbed that Trump calls it the China virus. One may dislike Trump for myriad things, but on this he is right. His ban on travel from China was wise even if he and his administration have faltered in shocking ways since to contain the spread at home. And the US is done being a world leader on this one.
But political correctness is not the answer and exactly the wrong approach. Liberals don’t recognise how their ‘wokeness’ is being weaponised by the Chinese right now in helping spread Beijing’s propaganda – the foremost being the claim that China’s drastic actions “bought” the world time in mitigating the spread of the virus. Liberals must stop buying into Chinese propaganda even if they despise and distrust Trump.
Christine Fair, a professor at Georgetown University, has repeatedly said on Twitter that denying the China-based zoonotic origins of this and other pandemics is as “ignorant as denying climate science.” The disease is uniquely a product of Chinese policies and practices, she says.
Learn From History And Hold China Accountable
A 2007 study published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, a part of the US National Institutes of Health, published in the wake of the SARS epidemic had this to say: “The rapid economic growth in southern China has led to an increasing demand for animal proteins including those from exotic game food animals such as civets. Large numbers and varieties of these wild game mammals in overcrowded cages and the lack of biosecurity in wet markets allowed the jumping of this (SARS) novel virus from animals to human.”
“Its capacity for human-to-human transmission, the lack of awareness in hospital infection control, and international air travel facilitated the rapid global dissemination of this agent,” the paper says in its introduction. The fatality rate for SARS was 10% and its impact on health care systems, economics and societies of affected countries “within just a few months of early 2003 was unparalleled since the last plague.” The study warned that SARS could return if conditions were fit.
If that doesn’t sound familiar given the current sequence of events and the “conditions,” then world leaders haven’t learnt anything. History is repeating itself right now. It will again unless leaders can bring themselves to confront China. Their people’s future is at stake.
Finally, the Chinese people are not to blame and should not become targets of racism. They are equally the victims of the opaque regime.
(The writer is a senior Washington-based journalist. She can be reached at @seemasirohi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)