China media launches major disinformation offensive on coronavirus

by WorldTribune Staff, March 6, 2020

China’s state-run propaganda outlets are circulating false stories on the coronavirus situation in the United States in order to take the focus away from the origin of the outbreak and criticism of the communist regime’s handling of it in China, reports say.

The disinformation campaign is painting the coronavirus in the United States as being more severe than in China. Some propaganda outlets are even claiming that the virus originated in the U.S. — with others going so far as to claim the virus is a CIA bioweapon.

Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping. / Xinhua

U.S.-based China commentator Tang Jingyuan said he believes the regime of Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping is purposefully using the U.S. outbreak to mislead Chinese citizens about the current outbreak within its own borders.

“We clearly see that the coronavirus epidemic in China is very severe, which is totally different from what government authorities claim. Chinese people see for themselves what is happening around them,” Tang said.

Thus, the Chinese regime hopes to shift people’s focus to the United States as a distraction, Tang said:

“It tries to fool people into thinking the virus is from the United States, and have Chinese people show hatred toward the U.S. Then, they won’t think about what the Beijing regime is doing.”

By emphasizing coronavirus outbreaks outside of China, the communist regime “can tell people that China has a better system,” Tang said.

The Washington Times first reported in late January that China’s tightly controlled social media was floating rumors that the Wuhan virus was a U.S. biological weapon.

“Thus does China’s propaganda machine showcase and promote a blame-America story, while not quite taking responsibility — since, after all, it is simply filling us in on speculation and rumor,” said Claudia Rosett, a foreign policy fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum.

“In China’s hothouse of state censorship and surveillance, this is a time-tested way to fuel the rumors the [Communist Party] desires to spread, not to stop them,” Rosett wrote in a recent report.

“The CIA does not comment on such outlandish and offensive misinformation,” said CIA Press Secretary Timothy L. Barrett.

The virus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

On March 4, Xinhua re-published a blog post titled, “With justice on our side, the world should thank China.”

“Now the United States is in turmoil. More and more states have declared a state of emergency, while the whole country is extremely short on medical supply. A coronavirus epidemic is almost inevitable,” the Xinhua post said.

“Most facial masks in the U.S. market are made and imported from China… The majority of medicine in the U.S. is imported from other countries… If China bans exports to the United States, the latter will enter into hell caused by the coronavirus,” the article said.

The article went on to make the claim that the United States and other countries should thank the communist regime in Beijing because China did not ban travel to and from the United States, which “would have damaged the American economy severely, and cause the U.S. stock market to crash.”

On Feb. 24, Chinese propaganda outlet Securities Times published an article based on unverified claims made by Paul Cottrell, who according to his online bio, is a finance PhD based in New York. Cottrell posted a YouTube video claiming that sources told him more than 1,000 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the United States.

As of March 4, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced 80 infections, excluding Americans who were repatriated from elsewhere and tested positive for the virus.

Using Cottrell’s claims as its basis, the Chinese article claimed that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was hiding the true scale of the U.S. outbreak.

The false claim that the virus originated in the United States began when China’s top virology expert, Zhong Nanshan, said at a press conference on Feb. 27 that there was a possibility the coronavirus did not originate from China.

That same day, a Taiwanese politician named Pan Hwai-tzong said during a television program that aired on the pro-Beijing cable channel EBC News: “The coronavirus is from the United States.” Pan is a councillor from Taipei city, and a professor at the Taiwan National Yang-Ming University.

Chinese state=-run media republished the claim by Pan. Some professors in mainland China have since clarified in media interviews that Pan’s comments have no scientific basis.

Chinese dissident Yang Jianli, president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, said Chinese government is behind the disinformation campaign about the U.S. origin of the pandemic.

“Many in China believe and spread the rumor that the U.S. launched the virus as a biological bomb through the Military World Games, which were held in Wuhan on Oct. 18 to 27,” Yang said in a public letter to Vice President Mike Pence.

“Nobody knows the role of the Chinese government in the origin and spread of this rumor,” Yang said. “The United States, relevant international organizations like WHO and the United Nations, and indeed the entire international community, should have from the onset of this crisis, pressed the Chinese authorities to provide information about the origin of the virus, or at least allow an international investigation on this question.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese regime’s recent official figures have reported a decline in infections, though internal government documents obtained by The Epoch Times and eyewitness accounts show that authorities have been underreporting cases.

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