Since the very beginning of the spread of the coronavirus, China has had one goal: Make China look good. That hasn’t always worked out as they hoped. For instance, it’s now widely accepted that their early attempts to stifle bad news gave the virus time to spread around the world. More recently China has been trying to make up for those mistakes by presenting itself as the hero of the pandemic, i.e. the country that is helping everyone else get through it. But last week that part of their PR campaign took a big hit when the Chinese made CoronaVac vaccine performed substantially less well then hoped.
Initially, testing in Brazil showed the vaccine was 78% effective. Not great but good enough. But it turned out those figures had been misleading. They left out people with mild cases or no symptoms. When you included those folks as well, the overall effectiveness was just barely above 50 percent.
China has not taken this news well. Today the Washington Post reports that Chinese state media is doing its best to distract from this obvious failure by discrediting other, better vaccines.
One year after the coronavirus was first widely reported in China, the country’s state media and officials are again pitching a flood of theories about its origins (not China) and which vaccines are safe (not American)…
After Chinese officials and researchers spent months telling the public that China’s vaccines would win the global development race, Huang added, “there’s now a gap between expectation and reality that needed to be addressed, so you see this effort to disparage Western vaccines.”
Last week, China Daily published an editorial attacking US media for seeking to discredit the Chinese vaccine.
If you look at the websites of major media in the US and the West, almost all the news you read about the Chinese-made vaccine is negative. Even if some of the news is positive, they were narrated with a lot of negative analysis. The press is out to destroy the reputation of the Chinese vaccine, hoping that the world will wait for Pfizer and other American and Western companies to produce surplus vaccines and finally get vaccinated…
The biased reports by Western media outlets have made the Chinese vaccine like a boat sailing against the current in the international public opinion arena. It is not only unfair, but also harmful to the global fight against the pandemic. The Global Times has the obligation to correct the environment of public opinion created by misinformation from Western media and do our part to promote the fairness of public perceptions regarding different vaccines.
It’s not just state media joining this push, it’s some Chinese experts as well:
George Gao, head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, recently pondered publicly whether the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines could cause cancer. Zhong Nanshan, who is considered a national hero for his work on the SARS and covid-19 outbreaks and sometimes speaks on behalf of the government, dismissed Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s clinical trials as “very insufficient” in November. China’s vaccines, Zhong added, “are developed with rigor.”
All of this is going on while a WHO backed team of scientists is in Wuhan looking into the origin of the virus. China is once again pushing alternative theories, even suggesting that maybe we should look into American biological laboratories.
On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying pushed speculation about a U.S. Army biological warfare program. “If the United States truly respects facts, it should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick, give more transparency to issues like its 200-plus overseas bio labs, invite WHO experts to conduct origin-tracing in the United States, and respond to the concerns from the international community,” she said in a briefing.
This is pretty obviously a response to suggestions that China should allow an investigation of what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a site which maintains the world’s largest collection of bat coronaviruses, including the closest known genetic relative of COVID-19.
So that’s where things stand. The CoronaVac vaccine is a disappointment and that doesn’t fit the PR message China has been desperately trying to send for the past year. So now the CCP is feeling defensive and its state media organs are lashing out. It may make them feel better but it won’t make their 2nd rate vaccine work any better.