Enough is enough. Not only are Italy, as a nation, and Italians as a people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but we also have to face – the frankly disgusting, given the situation – Chinese ‘propaganda’. It started with our incomparable Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, nicknamed Giggino, sharing enthusiastic posts on his Facebook account of Chinese doctors and Chinese medical supplies arriving in Italy. Maybe, since he does not know English, and even his Italian isn’t very good, he could not really understand what was going on. But then a well concerted campaign spread, again via Facebook, with ‘Italians’ (meaning mostly Chinese trolls in disguise) sharing posts praising China and their help to Italy.
What Is the ‘Chinese Strategy’?
The strategy became clear a few days later. Zhao Lijian, well-known for being the ‘Ghafoor’ of China (he was posted for years in Pakistan at the Chinese embassy, and entrusted with a very aggressive CPEC propaganda), posted a clip on Twitter and wrote: “In Rome, with the Chinese anthem playing, some Italians chanted ‘Grazie, Cina!’ on their balconies, & their neighbors applauded along. Against #COVID19, humanity lives in a community with a shared future! Italy is a heroic nation. At this trying moment, Chinese #StandWithItaly!”.
The audio of the clip is clearly a fake, and not even a good one. Besides, it is unlikely that even a single Italian knows the Chinese anthem. The scam has been called out on Twitter, but the campaign continued nevertheless.
We Are Angry Because Chinese Whistleblowers Were Silenced & Italians Are Dying Like Flies
And since the 'gratitude' motive did not resonate that much, another kind of campaign started. A few days later, in fact, The Global Times, the very well known Beijing government's mouthpiece, posts on Twitter: “#Italy may have had an unexplained strain of pneumonia as early as November and December 2019 with highly suspected symptoms of #COVID19, reports said”.
Reports? From where? And written by whom? By the same 'experts', including many Italian ones, ‘paid’ by Beijing? And if true, are we talking of the cases spread by the thousands of Chinese tourists crowding Italy every time of the year, since Beijing during those months was silent on the virus already affecting Wuhan? Further, articles in international media started stating that “Italians are so grateful to the Chinese; China is not perceived anymore in Italy as the country from which the virus originated”. As I said, enough is enough, and Italians are not the happy fools the international correspondents love to describe.
The truth is, we are angry. And we are angry because of China’s criminal silence on it.
We are angry because of the fact that Chinese doctors and journalists ended up in prison when they tried to alert the rest of the world, we are angry because people are dying like flies, because our hospitals are full and doctors and nurses cannot face the emergency anymore. We are angry because we are in lockdown, and while we try to cope with it, we also have to bear Zhao Lijian and his likes insulting us with the Chinese anthem, and their vile insinuations.
China’s Strategy to Make the World ‘Depend’ On It
We are angry because colleagues tell me Milan has become like Gwadar, with Chinese flags waving out of the hospitals along with the Italian ones. Something I never thought I would see in my life. And the worst thing is, many pretend not to see and not to understand. Many pretend not to see that this comes from very far and is part of a precise strategy behind Beijing's moves.
The same strategy, to be clear, behind CPEC and BRI. Create the need, then make money with the fulfilment of the need, and make countries and people dependent on you.
Most of the countries affected by coronavirus are now dependent on Chinese-made supplies, and Beijing is trying to buy the silence of the world with money, gifts, and trying to blame other countries for the pandemic.
The strategy includes corruption of politicians, diplomats, scholars, journalists and hiring trolls to spread fake or ‘likely’ news.
They are fake, but could be true.
We should not let China benefit from the Wuhan virus. This virus has been unleashed upon the rest of the world by the endemic failures of the Beijing regime: lack of transparency, lack of democracy, aggressive economic strategies, imperialistic designs. We should hold China responsible and ask Beijing for reparations, economic and moral reparations. We should ask for war damage: because what else is this if not a war?
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)