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Chinese foreign ministry: Is the U.S. government hiding something about coronavirus?

I missed this yesterday but offer it to you now as a reminder that these sleazebags are still trying to distract from their early cover-up of the epidemic in Wuhan by insinuating that America was somehow responsible for it.

Chinese propaganda outlets, both formal and otherwise, have spent the past month pushing theories that COVID-19 was imported from the U.S. The tweet above appears to be their way of capitalizing on the news that the first American to die of the disease passed away earlier than researchers realized, on February 6 in California. That was two weeks after Wuhan was locked down to try to contain their outbreak and many weeks after cases were first detected in China, but the foreign ministry understands that westerners are following news about the pandemic with different degrees of attentiveness. To someone who’s following it casually, a headline about earlier-than-known fatalities in the U.S. may lend new credence to the possibility that the virus originated here.

I thought Trump and Xi Jinping reached a detente on blaming each other after their phone call on March 27. Trump had taken to describing coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” before then, apparently as a way to push back on Chinese propaganda blaming the U.S. military for bringing it to Wuhan. After the air was cleared, he dropped that label and China — supposedly — eased off its disinformation effort.

But it didn’t last. Trump ended up wondering aloud at briefings whether the virus escaped from a Chinese lab, and who knows if the Chinese propaganda push ever really slowed down. Disinformation is the lifeblood of the Chinese Communist Party, after all. Politico noted a week ago that not only has the propaganda push continued recently but Russia and Iran are coordinating their narratives with China’s as a sort of force multiplier.

The three governments are pushing a host of matching messages: that the novel coronavirus is an American bioweapon, that the U.S. is scoring political points off the crisis, that the virus didn’t come from China, that U.S. troops spread it, that America’s sanctions are killing Iranians, that China’s response was great while the U.S.’ was negligent, that all three governments are managing the crisis well, and that the U.S. economy can’t bear the toll of the virus…

“What we saw as the health crisis started to come under control in China is that the CCP really started pushing a concerted effort to try to reshape that narrative,” she said, using the acronym for the Chinese Communist Party. “So in a short period of time the CCP went from letting Russian disinformation claiming the U.S. was the source of the virus proliferate in Chinese social media, to raising questions on state media about the origin’s source, to promoting disinformation that the U.S. was the source of the virus.”

This week the EU was set to roll out a new report detailing Chinese propaganda efforts to deflect blame for the coronavirus epidemic. Then Beijing got involved, vowing unfavorable “reactions” if the report was released as-is, in the words of one European diplomat. So the EU caved and watered down its language, an act one analyst aptly described as “self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party.” Some criticisms of China in the original version were omitted entirely; others, which had initially been placed in a section singling out China and Russia, were simply folded into the body of the report to make them less obvious.

By the time this Orwellian experiment to convince the world that up is down ends, I wonder what percentage of Earth’s population will believe that the virus really did come from America.

Speaking of troubling disinformation, this new poll from the Democracy Fund and UCLA is a doozy:

Nearly one-third of Americans believe a vaccine already exists to prevent coronavirus infection but is being withheld from the public, while nearly half believe the COVID-19 virus was created in a lab…

Twenty-nine percent said it’s either probably or definitely true that a vaccine that prevents coronavirus infection exists and is being withheld, according to the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project. An even greater percentage, 32%, said they believe treatment that cures coronavirus infection exists but is being withheld. Around 7 out of 10 Americans said those statements are untrue…

Views on the existence of a vaccine are virtually the same among Democrats and Republicans.

A huge number of Americans, 48 percent, also believe that the U.S. is concealing the true number of coronavirus deaths, although that breaks down along slightly more predictably partisan lines. Fifty-five percent of Democrats say so versus 38 percent of Republicans, which probably reflects greater mistrust of Trump on the left.

I’m at a loss as to how explain the results on a “secret vaccine,” though. It’s not a claim that’s being made by Chinese propaganda as far as I’m aware, for the simple reason that China wouldn’t want to admit that someone else had beaten it to the punch by developing a vaccine, even a secret one. My guess is that the numbers are mostly a function of the disproportionate effect of the epidemic on working-class people whose jobs don’t allow them to hunker down at home. If you live in a downscale neighborhood and know multiple people who’ve gotten sick, it may be easy to jump to the conclusion that there’s a secret vaccine out there that’s being shared only with wealthier elites, whose lives have been less disrupted. Either way, looking at these numbers you can see why China’s so invested in its disinformation operations in the west. They work. The audience is primed to suspect that it’s being hoodwinked by its leaders.