Why Did China Get to Dictate the World’s Pandemic Response?

Part 1 of the 2-part series: The World's Pandemic Response
November 12, 2021 Updated: November 13, 2021

Commentary

First the Chinese regime lied about the origins of COVID-19, then the world followed its pandemic containment policies, in spite of their inefficacy and the hardship they caused.

In October, roughly 20 months into the pandemic, China locked down a city of 4 million people. China has not “defeated” COVID-19, and yet Chinese leader Xi Jinping somehow convinced the world to adopt the China model of containment, despite the severe hardship and societal and economic damage caused by lockdowns, school closures, masks, and now forced vaccinations.

The United States and the world have never taken China’s advice on any other global problem in the past. So why was the pandemic response an exception?

Beijing’s original strategy was to cover up the virus. When that failed, it seemed the CCP believed that its legitimacy hinged on its ability to control the virus. Consequently, the CCP took a hard line. Authorities imposed draconian measures when they locked down Wuhan and other cities, which most of the world condemned as a violation of human rights. However, some Western media and politicians were less critical and said that the measures were effective, but they could never be applied to the West. And yet, within months, many countries followed suit.

China’s state media and internet trolls began publicly pushing CCP policies of mass testing, lockdowns, quarantines, masks, and school closures. ProPublica investigated Twitter accounts, supporting China’s pandemic response and its role as the “world’s savior,” and found 10,000 of them to be fake and linked to the Chinese regime. Twitter ended up deleting over 170,000 accounts that were linked to the CCP’s influence campaign.

In the West, mainstream media and some lawmakers began praising China for “flattening the curve” so quickly. In March 2020, scientific journal Nature ran an article about how the rest of the world could learn from China’s handling of COVID-19, suggesting that other countries should emulate China’s lockdowns.

Although Nature supported the Chinese model, it explained that travel bans would only delay the spread, not end the pandemic. It went on to say that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended against travel bans at the time. The article also mentioned that Singapore had quickly adopted the China model of contact tracing and isolation, and thus brought the virus under control by March 2020. The reality is, however, Singapore was still under lockdown in the summer and has recently began to ease restrictions.

As for school closures, the Nature article made the claim that children were equally as likely to be infected as adults, something which has since been disproved. But the article also said that it was unclear if children could transmit the virus, so it was unknown if school closures would be beneficial. And yet, schools were closed around the world.

Perhaps the most important statement in the Nature article was “China is suppressing the virus, not eradicating” it. The article also goes on to say, “Lockdowns have to end at some point.” And yet, nearly two years later, COVID-19 restrictions are still being implemented.

Chinese commuters wear protective masks
Chinese commuters wear protective masks as they wait to cross an intersection at the end of the workday during rush hour in Beijing, China, on May 18, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Xi began touting China’s “success with the virus” as a form of nationalism, which the Chinese public appeared to buy into. The rest of the world also believed it, as they followed China’s lead, locking down their own populations, closing schools, and requiring citizens to wear masks.

The CCP believed that its handling of the virus would catapult China to a position of world leadership. Beijing bragged, through state media and online posters, about the “low death count” in China and mounting deaths in the United States. To appear as the “world’s savior,” Beijing offered concessionary loans to Sri Lanka and other developing countries, whose economies were wiped out by the same virus response that China had recommended. The CCP sent Chinese-made masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical supplies to Spain, Italy, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

In Italy, Chinese health “experts” taught the Italian government how to implement the China-model of pandemic containment.

Thus, China exported contact tracing, masks, lockdowns, and school closures. China sent aid along the “Health Silk Road” to legitimize the debt ridden Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Beijing criticized the United States’ refusal to support the WHO, while widely publicizing China’s engagement with it and other world organizations.

Xi called on world leaders to talk about pandemic response. He held talks with the G-20, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the African Union. Chinese diplomats released media articles and op-eds in the various countries they were stationed in, to highlight the aid that China was dolling out and the expertise that China was imparting to the world regarding containment measures.

State-sponsored media articles stressed how grateful countries around the world were for China’s help in fighting the pandemic. Much of the aid that countries received was not actually aid. They had to pay for it. And a great deal of the equipment was defective. Slovakia received $16 million worth of defective test kits. And Finland purchased Chinese-made masks that turned out to be unsuitable for use in hospitals.

Capitalizing on its alleged successful handling of COVID-19, the CCP sought to take a leading role in global health organizations. Western media apparently bought into the notion that China knew the right way to address the pandemic and began supporting the CCP’s initiatives. China provided funding to the WHO, which then parroted Beijing’s recommendations about the importance of suspending civil liberties and locking down the global economy as a means of preventing the spread of the disease.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the WHO rejected reports provided by doctors in Taiwan, because Beijing opposes Taiwanese representation in international bodies. Instead, the WHO transmitted the CCP’s narrative, praising China’s alleged early response.

The WHO issued a China mission report, which stated: “In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history” gaining valuable response time, utilizing an “all-of-government and all-of society approach.”

The WHO report did not include anything about the negative impact of China’s draconian measures. Instead, it endorsed the China strategy, recommending it to the world.

And one-by-one, countries adopted the China model, disregarding the negative impact and ignoring data, which suggested that these methods were not effective at ending the pandemic.

Read Part 2 here.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., has spent over 20 years in Asia. He is a graduate of Shanghai University of Sport and holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University. Antonio works as an economics professor and China economic analyst, writing for various international media. Some of his books on China include "Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion" and "A Short Course on the Chinese Economy."