In its global propaganda campaign aimed at deflecting responsibility for the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is finding a compliant ally in the U.S. corporate media, analysts say.
“China’s state-run propaganda outlets are using coronavirus coverage by U.S. media and Democratic politicians to push the regime narrative that the Chinese government bears no responsibility for the ongoing pandemic and that sourcing the origin of the virus to Wuhan is politically motivated,” Collin Anderson wrote for the Washington Free Beacon on March 24.
The Global Times, a tabloid run by the CCP, used footage on Monday of CNN, NBC, and several Democratic politicians to portray criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus as racist.
“It is easy to scapegoat people, and that is what has always happened when there have been pandemics or epidemics,” NBC’s Richard Engel says in the clip featured in the propaganda video. “This is a virus that came from the territory of China but came from bats. This is a bat virus, not a China virus.”
In an analysis for National Review, Jonah Goldberg noted that “The media’s obsession with proving Trump is racist because he calls it the ‘Chinese coronavirus’ is perfectly in sync with the Communists’ propaganda effort.”
In another video posted Sunday, Global Times editor in chief Hu Xijin highlights a CNN opinion piece by Chris Cillizza that argues President Donald Trump is “weaponizing bigotry” to shift blame away from his administration. After questioning the virus’s point of origin in Wuhan, Xijin cites Cillizza’s piece as evidence that Trump is using China as a political “scapegoat for his government’s slow response.”
“Re-election concerns are driving the Trump administration’s intense attack on China as a ploy to divert public anger over the federal government’s poor controls,” Xijin says in a video pinned to the top of the outlet’s Twitter account, which has more than 1.6 million followers. “They’ve indeed been quite incompetent. Perhaps they can’t face their public without blaming China.”
The Global Times video also highlights tweets from Hillary Clinton and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio “parroting CCP talking points,” Anderson noted.
The goal of China’s disinformation campaign is “to distract from their own actions and own failures,” said FCC commissioner Brendan Carr.
“China is engaged in a worldwide propaganda campaign to cover their tracks,” Carr told The Epoch Times. “There is a direct relationship between the brutal and oppressive nature of the communist regime and the global spread of COVID-19. The chief propagandists for the communist regime are now twisting and turning the words of anyone and everyone around to try to take the finger off of them — and to point it at anybody else.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department scoffed at the propaganda outlets’ efforts to deflect blame.
“The Chinese Communist Party was the first to know about the outbreak, which conferred a special responsibility to inform Chinese citizens and the world about it,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said. “Instead, the Party covered-up the news and delayed their initial response, as authoritarian governments often do.”
One study, which not surprisingly went largely uncovered in the major media, found that coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95 percent if China did not initially try to cover up the outbreak.
After one of the first known coronavirus patients developed symptoms in Wuhan in early December, Chinese officials censored a hospital director who sounded the alarm about the virus. China went on to obfuscate about the virus for weeks, ordering labs to destroy testing samples in early January. Two weeks later, Chinese authorities reported to the World Health Organization that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan, China.” The day after the announcement, the patient with the first confirmed U.S. case carried the coronavirus from Wuhan to Washington state.
“We call on the CCP to be fully transparent about the outbreak now to help us save lives, and to prevent deaths when China produces the next possible global pandemic,” Ortagus said. “The CCP should have learned after SARS in 2003 that a free media environment is necessary to prevent cover-ups and subsequent embarrassment.”
China for decades has spent at least tens of millions of dollars publishing propaganda designed to look like legitimate news stories in U.S. newspapers, like the New York Times and Washington Post. The communist country committed $6.6 billion to a foreign propaganda initiative in 2009. The CCP has spent $35 million on one state-run outlet, China Daily, since 2017.
Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, warned of the propaganda effort in a letter to Attorney General William Barr following a Washington Free Beacon exposé of China Daily’s repeated breaches of federal law.
“China Daily is a disgusting propaganda rag that’s used by the Chinese Communist Party to cover for the regime’s ongoing atrocities,” Banks said. “If there’s one lesson from the Cold War, it’s that our victory was only possible because we convinced the world that democracy was superior to communist authoritarianism. Well, it looks like we have to fight that battle again — this time against a far wealthier and equally determined adversary.”
National Review’s Goldberg noted: “Thanks to Chinese censorship and state-controlled media, the Chinese people will get only the message the Chinese government wants them to get. And that message is that the blame for their problems doesn’t belong with their own corrupt government, but with the West.”