As one of China’s most significant political events approaches, a key topic for discussion is believed to be the international criticism over their handling of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak.
Australia and the United States are among the nations calling for an inquiry into the handling of the outbreak. US President Donald Trump froze the World Health Organization (WHO) funding and late last month, the attorney generals of the states of Missouri and Mississippi filed lawsuits against China. Along with other economies such as Germany, a new skepticism over Huawei technology has also surfaced.
According to an intelligence report by the US Department of Homeland Security dated May 1, Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January.
When The Millennial Source asked what people thought of China’s handling of the outbreak, the general response was that while there is no blame, there is a belief that the government could have handled the outbreak and the spread of information better.
The criticism China faces revolves around the belief that the initial mishandling of the outbreak was what allowed it to be unleashed into the world as a pandemic, killing thousands and crippling economies.
On December 31, reports of a mysterious pneumonia surfaced, and days later, it was discovered the virus had infected dozens across Asia. Human-to-human transmission at that point had not been confirmed.
On January 11, right before the lunar year festivities, China recorded its first death from COVID-19. By January 20, there were already confirmed cases in neighboring Japan and South Korea as well as Thailand.
On January 23, Wuhan had been sealed off from the rest of the world. By this date, there were 17 deaths in multiple countries, including the US, and nearly 600 cases.
January 30 marked the day the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the day after, on January 31, the Trump administration restricted travel from China, with exceptions for American citizens, permanent residents and immediate family of those individuals.
Speculation over origins
Another major topic of speculation revolves around the origins of the virus, a topic that has been further spurred on by conservative media outlets.
On Sunday, May 3, despite expert conclusions that the virus was not artificially created, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the new coronavirus emerged from a Chinese laboratory.
“The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point.” However, in acknowledgment of the contradiction Pompeo’s statement created with the conclusions of US intelligence report findings, he stated: “I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reason to believe that they’ve got it wrong.”
According to a Pew Research survey published on April 8, nearly a third of adults in the US now believe that the coronavirus was manufactured in a lab.
61 percent of those with at least a bachelor’s degree say the virus came about naturally. This is compared to 31 percent of those with a high school diploma or less who believe the virus was made in a lab (either intentionally or unintentionally.)
WHO and China respond
The Chinese government has continuously denied acting in a non-transparent manner during the early stages of the outbreak, stating that they instantly communicated with the WHO.
Recently, according to Chinese state media Xinhua News Agency, “Like the rest of the world, China is a victim of the pandemic, not an accomplice with the virus. By smearing China and instigating anti-China sentiment around the world, those politicians intend to frame China as an untrustworthy partner.” In response to the lawsuits issued by the attorney generals of Missouri and Mississipi, Xinhua News Agency released a commentary piece, saying: “Such frivolous litigations are only aimed to fault other countries for their own inactions and failures.”
The WHO has also praised China’s efforts, stating: “The Chinese people have reacted to this outbreak with courage and conviction,” a stance that Trump labeled as “China-centric” and which has also served as a contributing factor for halting funding to the organization.