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News about the coronavirus in China: a global violent reaction against China is generated by the coronavirus | World News

BRUSSELS: Australia has called for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus. Germany and Britain again hesitate about inviting Chinese tech giant Huawei. President Donald Trump blamed China for the contagion and seeks to punish him. Some governments want to sue Beijing for damages and reparations.

Across the world, a backlash against China is mounting for its initial mismanagement of the crisis that helped unleash the coronavirus worldwide, creating a deeply polarizing battle of narratives, and delaying China’s ambition to fill the leadership vacuum. left by the United States.

China, never receptive to external criticism and suspicious of the damage to its internal control and its long economic reach, has responded aggressively, combining medical aid to other countries with severe nationalistic rhetoric and combining demands for gratitude with economic threats.

The result has only added momentum to the pullback and China’s growing mistrust in Europe and Africa, undermining China’s desired image as a generous global actor.

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Even before the virus, Beijing showed a fierce focus on public relations, an aggressive style called “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, named after two ultra-patriotic Chinese films depicting evil plots and the fiery disappearance of US-led foreign mercenaries. .

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With the clear encouragement of President Xi Jinping and the powerful propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party, a younger generation of Chinese diplomats has demonstrated their loyalty with challenging nationalist and sometimes threatening messages in the countries they are in.

“There is a new brand of Chinese diplomats who seem to be competing with each other to be more radical and eventually insulting to the country they are in,” said François Godement, senior advisor for Asia at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne. . “They have quarreled with all the countries in northern Europe that they should be interested in, and they have distanced them from all of them.”

Since the virus, the tone has only hardened, a measure of how serious the danger is that China’s leaders consider the virus to be at home, where it has fueled anger and destroyed economic growth, as well as abroad.

In recent weeks, at least seven Chinese ambassadors, in France, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and the African Union, have been summoned by their hosts to respond to accusations ranging from spreading misinformation to “mistreatment. racist “of Africans. In Guangzhou, China.

Last week, China threatened to withhold medical aid from the Netherlands by changing the name of its representative office in Taiwan to include the word Taipei. And before that, the Chinese embassy in Berlin publicly clashed with the German newspaper Bild after the tabloid demanded $ 160 billion in compensation from China for damages caused to Germany by the virus.

Trump said last week that his administration was conducting “serious investigations” into the handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Beijing.

He has lobbied U.S. intelligence agencies to find the source of the virus, suggesting that it may have accidentally emerged from a Wuhan weapons laboratory, although most intelligence agencies remain skeptical. And he has expressed interest in trying to sue Beijing for damages, with the United States seeking $ 10 million for each American death.

Republicans in the United States have moved to support Trump’s attacks on China. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to hold Beijing responsible for the outbreak.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and added that “it had no factual and legal basis” and that “it only invites ridicule.”

The lawsuit appears to aim less at securing victory in court, which is unlikely, than at pressuring Congress to pass legislation that makes it easier for American citizens to sue foreign states for damages.

“From Beijing’s point of view, this contemporary call is a historical echo of the reparations paid after the Boxer Rebellion,” said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russian, European and Asian Studies, referring to anti-imperialists, anti-christians and ultra-nationalists. uprising around 1899-1901 in China that ended in defeat, with huge reparations for eight nations in the coming decades. “The party’s cultivation of the humiliation narrative makes it politically impossible for Xi to agree to pay reparations.”

Instead, it has been imperative that Xi change the narrative, guiding her from a story of incompetence and failure, including the suppression of early warnings about the virus, into a victory over the disease, a victory achieved through party unity.

In the latest version of the new Chinese narrative, the enemy, the virus, did not even come from China, but from the US military. USA, A baseless accusation made by the combative spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian.

Chinese diplomats are encouraged to be combative by Beijing, said Susan Shirk, a Chinese academic and director of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego. Zhao’s promotion to a spokesman and his statement about the United States military “tells everyone in China that this is the official line, so this megaphone effect is obtained,” he said, adding that it hinders negotiations.

But in the long term, China is generating mistrust and harming its own interests, said Shirk, who is working on a book called “Overreach,” on how China’s domestic politics has derailed its ambitions for a peaceful rise as a global superpower.

“As China began to control the virus and began this health diplomacy, it could have been an opportunity for China to emphasize its compassionate side and rebuild trust and reputation as a responsible global power,” he said. “But that diplomatic effort was hijacked by the party’s propaganda department, with a much more vigorous effort to take advantage of its assistance to praise China as a country and system and its performance in stopping the spread of the virus.”

In recent days, Chinese state media has issued numerous incendiary statements, saying that Australia, after announcing its desire for an investigation into the virus, was “glued to the bottom of China’s shoe.” Beijing warned that Australia risks damaging its trade association with China, which accounts for a third of Australia’s exports, in the long term.

“Perhaps ordinary people will say, ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eating Australian meat? “Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye told The Australian Financial Review. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne dismissed China’s attempt as” economic coercion. ”

Even in European countries like Germany, “China’s mistrust has accelerated so rapidly with the virus that no ministry knows how to treat it,” said Angela Stanzel, a China expert at the German Institute for International Affairs and Security.

In Germany, as in Great Britain, in addition to new questions about the advisability of using Huawei for the new 5G systems, concerns have also grown about China’s dependence on vital materials and pharmaceuticals.

France, which traditionally has good relations with Beijing, has also been angered by critical statements by Chinese diplomats, including the accusation that the French had deliberately left their older residents to die in nursing homes. That sparked a reprimand from France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and anger from lawmakers, despite an early reciprocal exchange of medical aid such as masks.

Recently, the German government complained that Chinese diplomats were requesting letters of support and gratitude for Beijing’s aid and efforts against the virus from government officials and the heads of major German companies.

The same has been true in Poland, US Ambassador to Warsaw Georgette Mosbacher said in an interview, describing Chinese pressure on President Andrzej Duda to call Xi and thank him for his help, a call the Chinese announced in his country.

“Poland was not going to receive these things unless the phone call was made, so they could use that phone call” for propaganda, Mosbacher said.

There is some unhappiness in China with current diplomatic rhetoric. In a recent essay, Zi Zhongyun, now 89, a longtime expert in the United States at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, sees parallels in the harsh nationalistic and xenophobic rhetoric of today’s Wolf Warriors with the period around of the Boxer Rebellion against Western influence. in China.

Zi said such reactions ran the risk of spiraling out of control.

“I can say without a doubt,” he concluded, “as long as Boxer-type activities receive the official seal of approval as ‘patriotic'” and as long as “generation after generation of our Chinese peers are educated and instilled with a Boxer-type mindset, it will be impossible. may China take its place among the modern civilized nations of the world. ”

Times of India

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