Criticism of China in the U.S. mainstream media is a bit like brushing one's teeth: It happens every day. However, unlike the daily ritual of brushing, chronic negativity about China serves no positive purpose.
Though no Western news organization will come right out and say it, there really is no other way to describe their recent coverage of the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout China than this: They revel in it.
On April 9, the New York Post claimed that "some 26 million people [in Shanghai] anguish in their apartments… China has unleashed yet another COVID Horror Show on its population."
The Associated Press asserted that "a series of deaths at a hospital for elderly patients in Shanghai is underscoring the dangerous consequences of China's stubborn pursuit of a zero-COVID approach."
Reading those words, one might conclude that China is falling apart and civil society is on the verge of collapse. You and I know such allegations are blatantly false and part of a systematic effort to embarrass China on the global stage. Missing from many of the stories is a grim reality: There are only slightly more daily cases in China now than there are in the U.S.
On April 10, China Global Television Network reported the following: The Chinese mainland recorded 1,351 new confirmed COVID-19 cases the previous day, with 1,318 linked to local transmissions and 33 from overseas, according to data from the National Health Commission. A total of 25,111 new asymptomatic cases were also spotted that same day, and 195,948 asymptomatic patients remained under medical observation. Confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland totaled 164,393 as of the date, with the death toll at 4,638.
And what about the U.S.? According to its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that same day saw 28,169 total new cases and 516 related casualties. Total figures in the U.S.: 80,191,020 diagnosed cases and 982,663 deaths.
I recognize some people might find it crass to repeat the numbers, but it is necessary for the sake of clarity. There have been roughly 165,000 total confirmed cases in China and roughly 82 million such cases in the U.S. Fewer than 5,000 Chinese people have died from the virus, whereas over 1 million Americans have succumbed to it.
In which nation is the "horror show" more evident?
Next, we must acknowledge that Chinese leaders, unlike many of their American counterparts, have never suggested the virus "was like the flu" and never told the Chinese people to carry on as if nothing was going on. Rather, they have remained vigilant in delivering the message that the virus was deadly and that the country had to place public health ahead of the wants of any one individual.
That vigilance includes the affirmation that the dynamic zero-COVID policy continues to exist inside China. The policy includes mass testing, limitations on domestic and especially international travel, lockdowns in cities where outbreaks occur, and deep cleaning/disinfecting.
No Chinese official ever claimed the policy was perfect and that China would never experience outbreaks of the virus. We also should not forget that Chinese officials who fail to keep the population safe are held to account; just the other day, three such officials in Shanghai were dismissed after their poor handling led to a "serious impact" on controlling the virus' spread.
Yes, total cases in China are rising as the Omicron variant wave hits a number of cities, and yes, officials are concerned. Authorities and residents remain resolute that local and national policies are imperfect, but effective.
Put all of that together and we reach one conclusion: There is no "horror show."
The author is an associate professor of communication and organizational leadership at Robert Morris University, the U.S. This article was first published on the China Focus website
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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