Illustrations by Hannah Robinson

There has been a noticeable tendency toward praising the Chinese approach to COVID-19 while excessively chastising the response of Western governments. A New York Times opinion piece from March described how the West has ‘squandered’ China’s attempts to ‘buy it time’. Meanwhile, the right-leaning Daily Telegraph has promoted Chinese state-sponsored articles with headlines such as “Why are some framing China’s heroic efforts to stop coronavirus as inhumane?”

However, proof of the Chinese government’s contribution to the outbreak is amassing, and we can no longer ignore it in the name of “international solidarity'”. Some intelligence suggests that the virus itself escaped from the Wuhan virology lab, and it is clear that the regime actively lied regarding the risk of human-to-human transmission and forced labs to destroy samples and tests. The regime continues to suppress whistleblowers and has consistently lied about infection figures. Yet the president of the European Commission herself heaped praise on China for its response and donation of an inconsequential amount of medical equipment to the EU. Such flattery bodes well with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) campaign of misinformation, designed “to deflect attention away from the fact that the Chinese government deliberately delayed ringing the alarm bell on the coronavirus,”. European leaders must ask themselves, is it worth cozying up to a totalitarian regime, in order to distance yourself from President Trump on the world stage?

Public squabbles on social media have been equally alarming, and many have attempted to shift the blame onto western culture rather than aspects of Chinese society and governance. A tweet from a Seattle-based user that received 235,000 likes reads: “Ew! gross! people in other countries eat animals that we keep as pets! surely my western worldview is the universal standard of morality and I’m not being racist at all”. Although this user was probably well-intentioned, accusations of xenophobia when faced with external judgment of the Chinese regime and certain cultural practices of its population (such as the cooking of live animals and the consumption of unsanitary animals such as bats), play into the CCP’s attempt to weaponize the Western progressive denial of non-white racism against itself, and distract from the Chinese origin of the virus.

Meanwhile the World Health Organization’s (WHO) warning against “politicizing” the virus, despite having themselves been complicit in the deliberate effort to cast Taiwan out of the limelight, also benefits China’s authoritarian and imperialist narrative. This was recently exposed in a now-viral exchange between a journalist and a WHO epidemiologist who refused to discuss Taiwan’s response, and stated that WHO “consider Taiwan part of China”. Yet Taiwan’s commendably low case rates paired with minimal lockdown is worth examining and should not be a taboo subject for the sake of CCP sensitivities.

This pandemic must provide a wake-up call for those wary of criticizing the Chinese regime. It ought not to be an excuse to regurgitate CCP propaganda in the guise of holding western administrations to account.