Coronavirus update: China spins the coronavirus crisis and proclaims world leader | World News
Now the ruling Communist Party, which faces a storm of anger from the Chinese public for its false steps, is trying to rehabilitate its image by changing its name as the unequivocal leader in the global fight against the virus.
State media has praised China’s response to the outbreak as a model for the world, accusing countries like the United States and South Korea of acting slowly to contain the spread.
“Some countries are slow to respond to the virus,” said a recent head of the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid strictly controlled by the Chinese government.
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Online influencers have announced the use of Mao-style social controls by China to achieve containment, using the hashtag: “The Chinese method is the only method that has proved successful.”
Party officials have tried to spin the crisis as a testament to the strength of China’s authoritarian system and its hardline leader, Xi Jinping, even announcing plans to publish a book in six languages about the outbreak that portrays him as a “important power leader” with “care for people.”
The attempt to change the brand is a bet for Xi and the party.
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Xi, China’s most influential leader since former Communist President Mao Zedong, has made it a priority to expand the country’s economic and military power around the world and show that China can play the role of responsible superpower.
The coronavirus outbreak has undermined these global ambitions and the propaganda drive suggests that the party could be worried about lasting damage. And as the virus spreads to more than 50 countries and wreaks havoc on world markets, experts said the campaign could revive concerns about China’s secret approach to handling the crisis.
“The danger to Xi Jinping is that as the virus spreads worldwide, the role played by China’s government system to delay a timely response will face increasing scrutiny and criticism from the international community,” said Elizabeth Economy, senior member and director of Asia. studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The brand change seems to be “Xi’s last effort to deflect guilt and avoid an international community’s demand for honest accountability for what really happened,” he added.
China is still in a public health crisis, with more than 79,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and at least 2,700 deaths. Factories in many areas have stopped production, and authorities have imposed closure measures in much of the country, beginning in January in the central city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.
The government is now working to promote the idea that international experts enthusiastically support their approach.
A recent story from Xinhua, a state news agency, presented experts from several Chinese allies, including Russia, Cuba and Belarus, praising Chinese leaders for showing “openness” and a “highly responsible attitude” in facing the outbreak . .
Memes have circulated with recent praise from an expert from the World Health Organization for China’s efforts. One shows the expert and a quote from a recent press conference in which he said he would like to be treated in China if he were infected with the virus.
A Xinhua Twitter post on Thursday asked what part of China’s fight against the epidemic was most impressive. The options included “spirit of personal sacrifice” and “solidarity among the Chinese.”
Eager to highlight the country’s successes, Chinese officials and commentators are encouraging other countries to deploy the Beijing playbook to combat the outbreak, including its strict blocking measures.
“The task that the Chinese wrote with their blood and sweat is right in front of your eyes, and you are not able to copy it?” He said a publication circulated widely in WeChat, a messaging application.
Some in the party are directing their criticism to the United States, a popular enemy, accusing US officials of “slandering” China by focusing on the deficiencies in their response. They have argued that the political system of the United States is not capable of effectively dealing with an outbreak.
“China has acted as a great responsible country,” an article said this week in the Global Times. “However, due to ideological and political prejudices against China, US elites do not believe that China’s movements and experience are reliable and useful.”
The party has tried to interpret themes of patriotism and sacrifice and rethink the crisis as a heroic battle against the virus with Xi at the helm. News sites show photos of medical workers stationed at airports, with the word “attack” dotted in the images in bright red letters. The cartoons that circulate online represent doctors and security officials who march in the words: “We will win this battle!”
Authorities have sent hundreds of state-sponsored journalists to produce sentimental stories about first-line doctors and nurses. Communist groups have created cartoon pets designed to provoke patriotic feelings.
That approach has often caused a setback of the public. In trying to rethink the crisis as a vindication of the party’s governance model, propaganda officials seem to be testing another message.
David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, a research program affiliated with the University of Hong Kong, said the party seemed to be in crisis and was not sure how to deal with a relentless shower of criticism.
“They really don’t know how to respond to an ongoing event of this magnitude,” he said. “There is a lot of inconsistency. And many efforts to gain control of public opinion only alleviate these problems.”
Xi seems anxious to rethink the crisis as a triumph for the party and a vindication of his efforts to strengthen his control over everyday life in China.
He said on Sunday at a teleconference meeting of 170,000 party cadres that a recent decline in infections “once again demonstrated the remarkable advantages of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Xi has proven to be an agile political operator, and has emerged from other relatively unscathed crises. But with the public still furious about the outbreak, they are likely to face persistent questions about the credibility of the party and its leadership, experts said.
Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing and a party critic, said a propaganda campaign was unlikely to satisfy the public.
“It is hard to believe that the Chinese Communist Party has played the role of hero or leader in the so-called coronavirus prevention in the world,” he said.
He added that Xi would probably fight to regain confidence.
“This crisis has caused a fatal blow to the personal image of Xi Jinping,” he said. “For a long time, the public will continue to doubt him, and this doubt is irreparable.”