Abstract: The United States uses COVID-19 as an opportunity to score political points during the epidemic and as a critical vessel to lash out at China. This paper deconstructs the public opinion campaign launched by the United States against Chinese epidemic prevention and control measures and provides an in-depth analysis of the political purposes behind it.
Keywords: United States; COVID-19; vaccine
As China rolled out its new epidemic prevention and control regulations, the United States, criticizing the “dynamic zero-COVID” policy, immediately changed its tone and turned the spearhead to China’s newly-introduced policy. In a fanfare of publicity with the media and think tanks involved, the United States trumpeted that China’s optimized COVID policy will cause a catastrophic increase in confirmed cases, and issued so-called warnings that China is not ready to prepare for a large-scale increase in cases, which will lead to a new public health crisis. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020, China made a tremendous contribution to the global fight against the epidemic. Still, it could not escape the bias of the United States. It has become a typical battle between national interests and values, ideologies, and social systems, as the US concocts various plots to insult and defame China in an attempt to vandalize China’s positive image in preventing and controlling the epidemic.
I. The US Utilized the COVID-19 Epidemic to Launch Public Opinion Attacks on China
1. Smear China for Concealing the Epidemic
After the first case of COVID-19 infection reported on December 29, 2019, China has regularly notified WHO and various countries, including the US, of the outbreak since January 3, 2020. On February 2, the US government issued a ban on the entry of foreigners who had visited China in the past 14 days. At that time, only around 10 confirmed cases were reported in the US. However, due to the ineffective response of the US government, the virus became widespread in the entire country. To shirk its responsibility, on March 20, the White House National Security Council required federal agencies to speak in a unified voice, claiming through various channels that China planned to cover up the epidemic, slandering China may have concealed more information, resulting in the spread of the epidemic. Any speculation or statement that appeared in the Western media and public opinion that there have long been unknown pneumonia deaths in the West will automatically be attributed to China’s concealment of the epidemic. In addition, the U.S. media used the fact that Li Wenliang was interviewed by the police for sharing unconfirmed gossip with a small group of friends to model Li as a “whistleblower.” And thereby construct an image of China as an “authoritarian” and a “cover-up” of the epidemic in China. This is “proof” of China’s “concealment of the epidemic” and deliberately downplays and avoids the Chinese government’s international communication and efforts to combat the epidemic.
2. Politicize the Origin Tracing of COVID-19
At the strong request of multiple countries, the WHO visited China twice, in January and February 2021, to conduct preliminary traceability investigations of COVID-19. Subsequently, the WHO-China COVID-19 Origin-Tracing Study Group jointly released a preliminary investigation report in March. The investigation report stated the following conclusions: First, it is “likely or highly likely” that COVID-19 was transmitted from an animal host to humans. Second, it is “likely to relatively likely” that it was transmitted directly from animals to humans. Third, it is “highly unlikely” that COVID-19 was leaked from the Wuhan National Bio-Safety Level 4 Lab of CAS.
However, the United States and 13 other countries have questioned this WHO origin-tracing report and launched a fierce attack on China and the Wuhan BSL-4 Lab. While distrusting the WHO report, the Biden administration in late May asked its intelligence agencies to trace COVID-19 and further determine whether it originated in nature or a laboratory. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, also expressed their respective views on this issue: Blinken said that the US should hold China accountable, and Sullivan claimed he wanted to put international pressure on China to promote “real” virus origin tracing efforts.
2. Attempts to Discredit Chinese Vaccines
Vaccine, as a major approach to fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, is crucial to the success or failure of the fight against the epidemic. China has always been at the forefront of vaccine development and has made outstanding contributions to the global vaccine supply. And in August 2020, China pledged to provide Chinese vaccines to the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, and other countries, which truly poked the nerves of the US as a “world leader” in the context of the global vaccine shortage. Some US thinks tank scholars, politicians and media have taken turns accusing China of conducting “vaccine diplomacy,” questioning the efficacy of Chinese vaccines and discrediting China’s vaccine efforts. Firstly, they accuse China of conducting vaccine diplomacy. White House spokeswoman, Jane Psaki, said at a press briefing that “the White House is concerned about vaccine diplomacy between China and Russia,” and Bryce C. Barros, China Affairs Analyst for the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a US think tank, claimed that China is trying to draw in countries along the “Belt and Road” to improve its international image in terms of multilateralism and global public goods. Secondly, they claim that China’s motives for distributing the vaccine were not pure, and China used the vaccine as a political bargaining chip to enlist Asian and African countries to strengthen and expand its influence in these regions, and prioritized the vaccine to countries with better relations in an attempt to deflect international accusations of China’s early “ineffective response to COVID-19.” Thirdly, they question the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine. The US Congressman and Republican Leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael T. McCaul, expressed concern about the planned inclusion of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine and Sinovac-CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine in the COVID-19 vaccine pool. The US think tank “OurWorldinData” alleged that 50-68 percent of the population in Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain, and Mongolia had been vaccinated, but that these four countries are among the top 10 countries with the most severe COVID-19 outbreaks, and repeatedly emphasized that these countries mainly use Chinese vaccines.
II. Three Years into the COVID-19 Epidemic, US Ambitions are Gradually Unveiled
1. Attempt to Utilize the COVID-19 Epidemic in Creating Chaos in China
After COVID-19 evolves into a global pandemic, epidemic prevention and control become extremely important for a country. Proper epidemic prevention measures can not only effectively curb the spread of the epidemic and protect the lives of its citizens, but also play a key role in the stability and development of the country. If the epidemic prevention measures are not insufficient, they will create chaos, cause social conflicts, and allow external forces to intervene. That is why it is so strange that the US-led Western countries have been keeping a close eye on China’s epidemic prevention policy, and not long ago, Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, called on China to relax its epidemic prevention measures. This is because it coincides with a time when the Chinese people are tired and dissatisfied with the “cascading” of epidemic prevention policy implementation. After this, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken publicly accused China of its epidemic prevention policy as well. This led directly to extreme emotions and behaviors occurring in a few places in China. By choosing this moment to take on China’s epidemic prevention policy, Fumio Kishida and Antony Blinken revealed that they were trying to confuse black and white and had obvious political agendas. Immediately afterward, former US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senator Marco Rubio, and other anti-China politicians claimed to “stand with the freedom-loving Chinese people” and took the opportunity to incite disgruntled people in China to cause trouble. It is foreseeable that the U.S. government will continue to use our epidemic policy changes and try to influence our public opinion, including stirring up external forces behind the scenes to make trouble for China. In the face of the vicious situation, we must remain sober-minded, follow closely the guidance of the Communist Party of China and the country, and not be compelled and used by external forces.
2. Attempt to Seize China’s COVID-19 Prevention Medical Market by Taking advantage of the Epidemic
In the past three years, because our country has been under strict control, the epidemic has not spread, and the state provides free vaccination and treatment for people, which makes it difficult for pharmaceutical companies in the United States and the West to enter the Chinese epidemic prevention market. After the gradual liberalization of the country, people will have a certain degree of choice over what drugs they want to buy and what vaccines to use. The United States has always accused China of its previous “zero COVID-19 policy”, on the one hand, concocting the rumors of the Sinovac vaccine, creating panic and marketing anxiety among the people. On the other hand, hype the superiority of American vaccines. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly made remarks about the epidemic in China, saying that after China relaxes epidemic prevention measures, there will be a wave of new COVID-19 infections, putting pressure on the health system and creating conditions for possible virus mutations. He also quoted the view of a US think tank that a new wave of infection will hit the massive elderly population in China and called on China to import Western mRNA vaccines to increase vaccination rates and improve public immunity. Blinken’s remarks fully exposed the shamelessness of the US and the West, and while constantly belittling the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines, he further forced China to open the epidemic prevention market and forcefully promote American and Western vaccines, to obtain greater benefits. On December 13, Pfizer’s new crown drug began to be pre-sold in China’s online pharmacy “www.111.com.cn,” priced at 2980 yuan/box. The purpose behind the United States’ continuous attacks on China’s epidemic prevention and control policy is as clear as the midday sun: the United States and the West covet China’s epidemic prevention medical market.
3. Use the Low Oil Prices under Epidemic Control to Export Strong Deflation to China
Before China’s outbreak of the epidemic in June this year, the Fed did not raise interest rates very much, which was because China’s economy was in an upward spiral. After the outbreak of the epidemic in China, the Fed quickly raised interest rates four times, which shows that the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates is, to some extent, related to the economic situation in China. The low oil price was a critical help in the process of US interest rate hikes. With the increase in infection and the PMI falling below the 50 boom and bust line in June, China’s economy entered a downward spiral, and the demand for oil imports was bound to shrink further. Coupled with the continued suppression of international oil prices by the US, international oil prices fell from $110 in June to nearly $90 in November and then from $90 to $73 recently. It represents that the low oil price target the United States hopes for has been initially reached. As we all know, international oil prices are only considered high if they are above $80, and once they fall below 80, they will move toward even lower prices. Once it falls below $40 in the future and enters the low oil price range, China’s economy will be hit by unprecedented hyper-deflation. From 2014 to 2015, it was the United States’ crackdown on international oil prices that plunged China into a four-kill spell of the stock market, property market, foreign exchange market, and bond market. Now, with the increase in the number of infected people in China, the United States is also making every effort to instigate domestic agents to frantically attack China’s epidemic prevention and control adjustment policies, in the vain hope of making China lie flat in an all-around way. Once flattened, international oil prices fall to $40 or even single digits, China’s manufacturing industry will fall into a comprehensive predicament, and the four kills will repeat themselves. At present, Europe and the United States have joined forces to sanction Russia, demanding that Russian oil prices be limited to less than $60. Next, the United States and the West will further promote the “China containment” policy when China is going all-out in fighting the epidemic.
In the epidemic prevention symposium convened by the National Health Commission, experts pointed out the new situation and new tasks facing China’s epidemic prevention and control, sending clear signals of adjustment. The United States, which has been closely watching China’s every move, is extremely concerned about this. The United States hopes that there will be two situations in China: one is that all parts of China continue to prevent the epidemic in a large-scale lockdown, which is bound to affect China’s economic development. The US has long been fully liberalized, and the economy has recovered rapidly thereafter, and data show that the US economy grew by 5.7% in 2021, the highest rate since 1984. Another scenario is that once China fully liberalizes, without buffers and preparation, it will most likely lead to chaos. The large-scale infection makes hospitals overcrowded, which can easily put an overwhelming strain on medical resources, causing public dissatisfaction, and the US can take the opportunity to incite and disrupt China. The last thing the United States wants is for China to open up in a gradual, moderate, and orderly manner. This will allow China to be fully prepared psychologically, materially, and medically, so that we will coexist with COVID-19 more calmly and confidently, with social stability maintained and economic development back on track. And No more opportunity will be given to external forces.