The Chinese regime is pushing a new narrative on the global pandemic, claiming over the past few days that there have been no new local infections of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, in an increasingly aggressive disinformation campaign.
As part of this propaganda push, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is also alleging that it now faces a bigger threat—infections imported from overseas. A number of state-run media, many of which have English versions of their websites, are pushing these stories, and some U.S. media are repeating these stories verbatim.
A March 19 headline story published in CCP mouthpiece Xinhua said there were “no new infections of the novel coronavirus” in Wuhan, the origin of the virus, adding that the news sends “a message of hope to a world grappling with the pandemic.” A March 18 article in The New York Times reported the same narrative, with a headline titled “China Hits a Coronavirus Milestone: No New Local Infections.”
Experts say the international community shouldn’t believe any numbers coming out of China due to the regime’s efforts to cover up the outbreak. Internal government documents obtained by The Epoch Times have highlighted how the regime purposefully underreported cases of the CCP virus and censored discussions related to the outbreak, helping to fuel its spread.
“The Chinese propaganda machine is going to tell us what they want the rest of the world to hear and not necessarily what is fact,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) told The Epoch Times.
The CCP is set to expel U.S. journalists based in China who work for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
“That was an act of informing the rest of the world that they [China] have no intent upon being transparent,” Banks said. “Any statistic or anything that you read coming out of China should be readily dismissed simply because of that.”
“They don’t want the real story to be told because they know that they are culpable and they know that this coronavirus will always be associated with the current regime and the CCP leadership in China today.”
U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien, during a speech at Washington-based think tank The Heritage Foundation on March 11, said the regime had initially attempted to censor doctors who tried to speak about the outbreak, “so that word of this virus could not get out.” He said it likely “cost the world community two months to respond.”
Li Wenliang, one of the eight whistleblowers who first publicized information about a “SARS-like” outbreak in December 2019, was reprimanded by Chinese authorities for “rumor-mongering.” Li was forced to sign a “confession statement” in which he promised that he wouldn’t commit further “unlawful acts.” In February, he died from the CCP virus.
“China’s track record of suppressing news or conversations on topics that are concerning to the regime is a long-standing practice,” John Schaus, fellow at the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Epoch Times via email.
“Early response by local and online authorities is in line with its consistent [censoring] practices.”
On the claim of zero new cases, Schaus said, “In a country with 1.3 billion people, it would be remarkable if there was 100 percent certainty on such a number.”
In another example of the regime’s coverup, funeral home directors in the Chinese city of Jining discovered that some local hospitals had death certificates marked with “unidentified pneumonia” as the cause of death.
Last week, a U.S. state department official summoned the Chinese ambassador to the United States after a high-ranking Beijing official pushed the conspiracy claim that the CCP virus came from the U.S. Army.
“This isn’t a partisan issue,” Banks said. “This is about China’s efforts to stop America and [to] prevent America from preparing for this—and ultimately how they should be held responsible for that type of behavior.”
The disinformation campaign aims to primarily deflect blame from the Chinese regime’s botched handling of the CCP virus and to portray the image that the regime is in control.
Earlier this month, a team of Chinese officials, including Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, visited a residential compound in Wuhan. They were greeted by locals who had been sealed inside for more than a month, yelling from inside their buildings, with one woman shouting out her window, “It’s fake, everything’s fake!”
“The U.S. must counter that [propaganda] message with a determined information campaign,” author and China expert Gordon Chang told The Epoch Times.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mishandling allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.