The novel coronavirus outbreak has brought with it a wave of distrust and discrimination against Chinese nationals the world over - Reuters
Many opinions have been penned across the world over the outbreak of the new strain of influenza. It has killed thousands of innocent Chinese according to official figures. As it came from China, no candlelight vigil has been held in major cities in western countries, the self-proclaimed pioneers of humanity and guardians of human rights.
The Eiffel Tower, a manmade wonder in Paris, is yet to dim its lights to commemorate victims in China and elsewhere. Due to that fact that the disease sprung forth from China, many conspiracy theories have also emerged similar to those presented in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Significantly, there is less attention being paid to the core issues of viral influenza and greater focus is placed on mocking the Chinese system of governance. Consequently, not only mainland Chinese but those who are of Chinese origin and live in East and South East Asian regions are being discriminated against and intimidated. What a sad era we live in.
Impartiality has been defeated by narrow-minded prejudices. We are disconnecting from the real world and our fellow humans more than ever. This is nothing but a continuation of what we have been compelled to move into over the last few decades.
We marked the dawn of a new decade by viciously and malevolently hammering humanity. The many fatal incidents reported continue to expose the doublespeak and hypocrisy of policymakers and key players in the global power game.
The US made the deadly MQ-9 Reaper drone which targeted the Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and the head of the Popular Mobilization Front or Hashd al Shaabi in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, and killed them at the country’s civilian airport, previously called the Saddam International Airport but later, after the action of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, rechristened the Baghdad International Airport.
The brutal assassinations sparked several rounds of protests and questions over the biased implementation of international laws and regulations. Subsequently, the Iranian retaliation was annulled due to internal and external public pressure. However, the assassination of Soleimani is not secondary to the series of assassinations reported against Iranian scientists, allegedly planned and perpetrated by Israel’s intelligence service Mossad years ago. The covert operations are continuing. Fortunately, the planned open war against Iran has been postponed.
Nevertheless, Syria is still crying while Yemenis are starving to death and the cholera outbreak is continuing. Libya is back in hell. For some strange reason, the international media and other influential parties pay less attention to those humanitarian crises since China is now a top priority. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has officially been recognised as COVID-19, is creating a fresh wave of propaganda against and for Chinese ideology. Interestingly enough, debate over COVID-19 is more political in nature than healthcare-related. Conspiracy theorists and fake newsmongers are peddling various reports through social media and other channels to elevate social panic.
Among the reports this writer received over the past fortnight were two shocking fake news stories on the COVID-19 outbreak. One “revealed” that the Chinese Government was planning to gain approval from the Supreme People’s Court to kill over 20,000 patients infected with the virus in order to prevent its spread in the country.
Another fake newsmonger appeared on TV and related that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China tallied over 150 million and the number of deaths had exceeded 50,000. But “the Chinese central government is hiding the truth,” he alleged. Most of these ‘commentators’ deliberately ignore that they are talking about fellow human beings and not roosters or frogs. Aren’t they ashamed?
Meanwhile, two interesting conspiracy theories came to light. According to one theory, the COVID-19 was stolen from a top Canadian biochemical lab and brought into China, where it was mistakenly released to the public in Wuhan’s wet market, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The second theory points to an event organised by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security last year where the panel of experts discussed the possible outbreak of a novel coronavirus throughout the world. Event 201, a pandemic simulation organised by the centre, visualised “an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak spreading like wildfire out of South America to wreak worldwide havoc.” Therefore, the US authority was blamed for using secret bioweapons targeting the Chinese to perpetuate the meltdown of the Chinese economy. However, the allegation was officially shot down. But nothing is surprising when rumours are flying in this era of post-truth.
However, after experiences on the ground, Chinese experts like many others enhanced the experimental capacity of virology. Most of the experiences aimed at a single objective, finding out if the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)-CoV or a similar type of virus was going to come back?
The Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (WIV-CAS) in multiple papers stated that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus was inevitable. In 2016, Zhengli Shi and colleagues at WIO-CAS discovered 11 new strains of SARS-related viruses in horseshoe bats (especially in Rhinolophus Sinicus). Subsequently, their paper was released into the public domain by predicting a novel coronavirus outbreak in the near future. Refuting the conspiracy theories, Dr. Shi, one of the country’s best virologists, reaffirmed the impossibility of engineering a novel coronavirus in a lab, saying, “COVID-19 is a punishment by nature for humans’ unsanitary lifestyle. I promise with my life that the virus has nothing to do with the lab,” she said.
The Chinese authorities accepted that there was a delay at the local government level in conveying information about the virus outbreak which hurt the capacity to mitigate the outbreak. But once the virus was officially declared, the rapid action taken by the Government and other responsible agencies against COVID-19 was impressive. This shows the improvement of the Chinese system across all layers of society. China, history has proven, is not only a country but an ideology. Mere criticism and Sinophobia will not serve the purpose if anyone desires to understand China.
Imagine what the situation in Wuhan and surrounding regions would have been during the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong, who used an annual swimming event in 1966 to boost his reputation and image after the devastating Great Leap Forward. And compare that history with the current social improvement in China, achieved a little more than 50 years later. It is indeed remarkable and for other countries there are many lessons to be learnt. Should we not be happy for them?
Not just Wuhan but the whole of China will prove that it can rise after any crisis as crises are an inevitable part of Chinese history. Time and again the Chinese people and the system has proved that it cannot only overcome a crisis but spread a positive message around the globe. It is not hyperbole to say that like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Wuhan is capable of rising from the ashes and teaching the world how to recover from an epidemic and discrimination, intimidation and bullying. In another words, it is time to realise that COVID-19 is testing the quality of global humanity.
Every human life is matter of serious concern and no one can downplay the number of deaths unless and until it is factually confirmed. It is our moral duty not to spread fear among the people and escalate panic but to offer them support. Only then will our human qualities show and prevail in such difficult times. It is easy to leave people when they are weak and join them when they are strong. Fear and panic are the fundamental enemies of health. The very meaning of our life is to keep these emotions aside and take decisive scientific action to improve the livelihood of all.
(The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the official policy or position of any other organisation or employer he is affiliated to)