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China’s lies about coronavirus could be costing the world hundreds of thousands of lives

US intelligence officials report that China is continuously manipulating its coronavirus data, writes Damian Collins MP. | PA Images

3 min read

For the sake of China’s future status, it now needs to be an honest broker, and put the health of the world above internal politics and oppression.

If the tragic coronavirus outbreak has taught us anything, it is the importance of the international community coming together. Each country has a unique part to play in alleviating the world from the virus. From sharing crucial data and medical advances to comparing lockdown policies and financial schemes, when countries actively work together, they can defeat this invisible enemy as quickly and effectively as possible.

Yet, new findings have proven that this ideal is not shared by all. Instead, China has been busy with ridding itself of responsibility. For the sake of China’s future status, it now needs to be an honest broker. This is even more crucial following recent unlawful arrests of at least 15 pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong and China’s unprecedented dismissal of the city’s Basic Law.

US intelligence officials report that China is continuously manipulating its coronavirus data. Three US officials, speaking anonymously to Bloomberg News, have said that China’s public reporting of both infections and deaths were left intentionally incomplete. Health experts have backed this claim, including the independent and respected World Medical Association, which agrees that China’s coronavirus figures are not credible. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee has also stated that the world’s fight against the virus has been hampered by China’s lies.

Not only is withholding this data threatening relief efforts across the world, but this undeclared data gap may have actually obscured the data being used by other countries, leading to deeply flawed governmental conclusions and the implementation of subsequently problematic policies, healthcare solutions and coping strategies. China’s refusal to work internationally could still be costing the world hundreds of thousands of lives. It’s the equivalent of offering flawed directions to someone already blindfolded.

Sasha Havlicek, CEO of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the Infotagion podcast I host that beyond the fake cures and false NHS messages we’re seeing in the UK, the political exploitation of Covid-19 information is not dissimilar to that previously seen in elections: state-sponsored and affiliated media outlets, as well as extremists groups, actively pushing their own agendas on social media.

For China, the extraordinary claim that has been shared by diplomats, state media and officials is the idea that the coronavirus originated not from Wuhan, but from a variety of countries instead, including the United States, Italy and Iran. “American coronavirus” has since been trending on popular social media platform, Weibo. The urge to blame other countries for the outbreak is not only unhelpful, but it also offers us a glimpse into the state psyche, unable to fix its systemic internal problems and so forced to deflect its own failures onto others. Meanwhile, 14 pro-democracy campaigners have been arrested this weekend, proving China’s preference to conceal problems, rather than face them.

The world must do more to work together, and to call out those who actively undermine international relief efforts. Some have even suggested that China be sued £3.2 trillion just from the G7 nations for the outbreak. While it is unhelpful to stigmatise China, it is necessary to analyse its points of failure, particularly if deliberate, so that we can all learn and prevent future disasters from happening.

China’s future depends on helping others as well as itself. Ironically, representatives of China including its ambassador to the UK insists that China wishes to cooperate with the wider world, while denying many international investigations into the state. Now is the time for China to fulfil that promise and to put the health of the world above internal politics and oppression.


Damian Collins is the MP for Folkestone and Hythe.

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