While all this prejudice has been on display, the Chinese people have been suffering
MA XUEJ ING/CHINA DAILY The Chinese economy seems to be marking time because of the novel coronavirous epidemic and it will take time to get the engine of Chinese growth on the right track again.
This is not the time for other countries to rejoice in China‘s misfortune, yet there are some indulging in schadenfreude as the country reels under the calamity.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross immediately jumped on the outbreak, saying, “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.” He went even further, disparagingly claiming that China “has a long history of covering up real risks to its own people and the rest of the world”.
China is trying its best to determine the number of infected people and the death toll from the virus, and it constantly makes it known, both at home and abroad. Chinese people can even pinpoint how far they are away from the site of a known infection via a map on their smartphones. Where is the cover-up?
The highly admired American newspaper The Wall Street Journal recently published an article with an underlying racist tone with the headline, “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. And it is not only the media in the US that are exposing their bigotry, some European media outlets have also been expressing disdain for the Chinese government and the state. A Danish newspaper, the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, replaced the five stars on the Chinese flag with five symbols depicting the new virus.
The French newspaper Le Courrier Picard also used the headline “Alerte Jaune”, which means ‘Yellow Alert’ and the German magazine Der Spigel declared on its cover “Coronavirus－Made in China“.
While all this prejudice has been on display, the Chinese people have been suffering.
When the West wants to take pride in being the champion of liberty and an “all accommodating society”, why not show it can be that? Should the editors and publishers of these newspapers and magazines have shown more wisdom, maturity and not resorted to racist-laden phrases and words?
It was highly disappointing to read some online attention-seeking news articles that claimed Chinese officials were seeking approval from the Supreme People’s Court to start the mass slaughter of 20,000 people infected with the new coronavirus to contain the disease. My own mother called me from the impoverished state of Bihar in India to know the truth and so did some of my students. How can one even publish such vicious “fake news”? Just to get online presence and attract some attention? Ridiculous indeed. This double standard on epidemics is not helpful in fighting diseases.
The response by the US government during 2009 H1N1 epidemic outbreak was extremely slow and it took the US almost half a year to declare it as a national emergency. China informed the World Health Organization of the outbreak soon after it emerged and it has kept it up to date on developments. While the Chinese people are doing all they can to stop the spread of this nasty virus, too many in the West seem intent on making nasty attacks on China.
The West and the whole world need to understand clearly that no matter in which country a public health threat emerges, no country is powerful enough to have all the resources, all the medical facilities, all the manpower, all the expertise and all the kits available to combat against these sorts of epidemics within a few days. China needs to be congratulated for erecting two hospitals in Wuhan within the span of some 10 days for each, and it should be appreciated for the all-out efforts it is making to contain the virus, at great cost to itself.
Under these kinds of abnormal circumstances, strong actions need to be taken which may not be welcomed by everyone. Whatever the government does, there will be always some people who will criticize the government without knowing the exact situation.
The whole world should show solidarity, and jointly fight against this invisible enemy with China. The West does not need to criticize or ridicule the Chinese government or denigrate the Chinese people.
The author is a senior academic at the University of Bath. The views don’t necessarily represent those of China Daily.