And NBC would like us to know this, apparently. Under fire from the entire global community for their efforts to suppress warnings about COVID-19 when it might have saved a lot of lives, China has pushed back vociferously over the last two months, conducting a propaganda campaign through its foreign ministry. Its official spokesperson Zhao Lijian publicly suggested that the US Army planted COVID-19 in Hubei, later contradicted by the country’s ambassador to the US.
Zhao hasn’t stopped spreading propaganda to take the heat off China. His boss, executive vice foreign minister Le Yucheng, is merely offering a slightly more sophisticated form of misdirection — and NBC seems to be happy to amplify it:
A senior Chinese government official challenged President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., accusing him of wasting weeks after the threat posed by the virus first became apparent.
In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News conducted in Mandarin on Tuesday, the official, Executive Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, also hit back at the politicization of the virus.
Le, a rising star within the country’s political establishment, rejected claims that China had covered up the initial outbreak or that it should be held financially liable for COVID-19. Instead, he termed the virus a “natural disaster” and called for greater cooperation and an end to accusations.
“On Jan. 23 when Wuhan went under lockdown, the United States reported only one confirmed case, but on March 13 when President Trump announced a national emergency, the United States reported over 1,600 confirmed cases,” said Le, referring to the city in Hubei province where the virus is believed to have emerged.
“In this interval of 50 days, what was the U.S. government doing? Where have those 50 days gone?” said Le, a Russian speaker born on China’s industrial east coast, who began his diplomatic career in what was then the Soviet Union.
First off, March 13 is an interesting date. That was the day after the New York Times first exposed Zhao’s ludicrous propaganda about the US Army planting the virus in China. It’s also about the time that it became clear that New York City was developing into a hot spot, thanks to a largely unforeseen seeding from Europe, although of course that also originated in China. The direct seeding on the West Coast had been better controlled.
Le leaves out a few dates prior to that, though. For instance, Trump imposed travel restrictions between the US and China on January 31 to minimize the risk of that seeding, which seems to have been effective. At that time, China howled in outrage over the order, claiming it to be unfair and unnecessary, and got backed up by their mouthpieces at the World Health Organization a few days later. WHO chief Tedros claimed on February 3 that the spread of COVID-19 was “minimal and slow” based on data China was providing at the time, which turned out to be horribly wrong, but was also the only data available to the US and other countries at the time.
What about some earlier dates? Readers have to scroll down pretty far into the piece to the sixteenth paragraph before NBC mentions the doctors in China who tried to raise the alarm about the true nature of the COVID-19 outbreak. That resulted in their suppression by Beijing in late December, most of whom have not been heard from since. Had China not suppressed those warnings, everyone — including China — might have saved a lot of lives.
Does NBC raise this issue? Sure, but not before we get six references to Trump and his performance. And even then, NBC only barely raises it and lets Le off the hook, at least according to its own reporting:
When Chinese medical staff members first reported cases of the virus in Wuhan late in 2019, reports were suppressed and some, including Dr. Li Wenliang — who later died from the virus — were reprimanded for spreading false information when they warned of the danger posed by the newly discovered disease, causing an outcry on Chinese social media.
Le stood by the country’s official data and said China’s response had been “fast” compared to other countries.
“I want to say China has not covered anything up. We did not cause any delay,” said Le.
Oh, well, that settles it then, sorry to bother. Great job speaking truth to power, NBC.
Is there room to criticize Trump for his reaction to the coronavirus pandemic? Sure, but then criticize the European nations that also got caught flat-footed right along with Trump, and everyone else who got blindsided by bad data from China and promulgated through WHO. All of these are reactions, though, to the initial bad actor — China, which has generated several viral epidemics over the last few decades. These are not “natural disasters,” but at best the product of horrid food-safety practices about which epidemiologists have warned for a generation. China doesn’t want to take the blame for these outbreaks, and so send out their propagandists to shift it wherever they think it will stick.
Clearly, China thinks that it can ply that propaganda through American national media outlets uncritically, thanks to their obsession with Trump. Sadly, China appears to be completely correct in that assessment.