In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Communist Party of China has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign to shift the blame away from Beijing and to the United States for the deadly outbreak, which has killed nearly 10,000 people around the world.
In multiple media appearances and through official channels, CPC officials have even accused Americans, including U.S. military personnel, of developing the virus and spreading it to China and Europe.
Blaming Americans on Chinese Television
Central China TV “Expert” : “The US pushed out the vaccine so quickly, that only means they have been working on it… https://t.co/3qMJ0uoitR— 黃子茵 霧亭 全民大契約 (@黃子茵 霧亭 全民大契約)1584631680.0
A key component of China's strategy appears to be the peddling of conspiracy theories about the virus' origins. For instance, in a recent state-run Central China TV appearance, a medical expert speculated whether American officials had the virus all along.
"The US pushed out the vaccine so quickly, that only means they have been working on it way before the pandemic," she said. The show's host agreed with her contention. "So we can conclude that the US had this virus in their possession long ago."
Beijing's PR blitz has emerged as the United States and China increasingly find themselves in a war of words. Last Thursday, a high-level Chinese diplomat claimed the United States military may have brought COVID-19 to China, rather than the virus originating in Wuhan.
Chinese official blames the United States
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names… https://t.co/Geeb4JOPty— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@Lijian Zhao 赵立坚)1584023854.0
As CNN reported, in a tweet shared with more than 300,000 followers, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian shared a video of Robert Redfield, the director for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, addressing a congressional committee and floated the conspiracy theory that the "US Army" is the one who "brought the epidemic to Wuhan."
When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!
The baseless accusations have troubled U.S. officials, including President Trump, who has responded by referring to COVID-19 as a "Chinese Virus" in multiple news conferences and tweets. Meanwhile, conservative pundits, such as National Review's John McCormack, have also branded the illness as the "Red Plague" and the "Wuhan flu” to counter Beijing’s propaganda.
A coordinated public relations effort
According to Fox News, Red China’s public and private sectors are "working in lockstep" to expedite humanitarian aid to countries who need help in order to carry favor with foreign governments. Earlier in the week, for example, China's leader Xi Jinping pledged to send medical supplies to Italy in addition to the 2,000 rapid diagnostic tests it has already deployed to the Philippines and aid to Japan and Iraq.
"The Chinese government has been trying to project Chinese state power beyond its borders and establish China as a global leader, not dissimilar to what the U.S. government has been doing for the better part of a century, and the distribution of medical aid is part of that mission," said Cornell University's Dr. Yangyang Cheng to The Intercept.