‘Diplomacy, Media, Foreign Events’: China Employing Various Means To Absolve President Xi, Claim Analysts 

by Swarajya Staff - Apr 16, 2020 05:21 PM +05:30 IST
‘Diplomacy, Media, Foreign Events’: China Employing Various Means To Absolve President Xi, Claim Analysts Chinese President Xi Jinping (People’s Daily)

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the world, some researchers are of the opinion that the Chinese leadership is using a section of the western media to influence the public opinion globally and is trying to absolve President Xi Jinping, reports Asian News International.

"There are clear indications that China is conducting activities in a persistent and systematic manner to influence public opinion-making, academia, think tanks and political decision-making among the member states of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in general and western capital cities in particular," Siegfried O Wolf, Director of Research at Brussels-based think tank South Asia Democratic Front, was quoted by ANI as saying.

Some media reports claims that several Chinese officials were aware of the pandemic situation, yet they allowed Wuhan to hold banquet for tens of thousands of people and millions began their annual trip home for the Lunar New Year celebrations.

"The frequency and extra-ordinary large scale of Chinese sponsored events in European political hubs, like in Brussels, and the subsequent media coverage can be seen as evidence for Beijing's public diplomacy efforts. However, the rising scepticism within the EU regarding Xi Jinping's development projects and the emerging questioning of Chinese sources funding Free Universities, like the one in Berlin, shows that this strategy produced mixed results so far," Wolf said.

He added, "However, one must also state that these efforts helped China to gain certain leverage among many non-Chinese media, western as well as non-western ones. Today, we can observe that China's political leadership tries to instrumentalise this influence for a major image campaign to distract from the fact that it carries the initial responsibility for the dramatic spread of COVID-19 by holding back key information."

"Concretely, Beijing's obvious aim is to distract the domestic and international attention from the real, but hidden causes of the Coronavirus outbreak and its potential reputational and political consequences for Xi Jinping and his BRI," he stated.

Yoana Barakova, a Research Analyst at European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), an Amsterdam-based think-tank, said, "The death of Dr Li Wenliang, one of the very few medical professionals who tried to warn the world in December 2019 about the looming threat, sparked widespread condemnation around the international community in early February.

Yet, little did he know that his legacy would continue much later after his demise, with the emboldened Chinese government trying to cover up its missteps through hardcore censorship after being exposed for undermining and underestimating the initial danger."

The state narrative is strictly controlled by the local authorities in China by misplacing the media’s focus on government’s superficial attempts at tackling the crisis. As per researchers, this is a clear indication of deteriorating press freedom in China under Xi’s regime.

A media report on 1 April claimed that the Chinese government has deliberately under-reported the total number of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths in the country. Citing US intelligence officials, Bloomberg had alleged that "China's public reporting of COVID-19 infections and deaths is purposefully incomplete".

It should be noted that various reports have in the past pointed towards China buying good press across the world.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19, which originate in Wuhan, has so far infected over 2 million people and led to the deaths of over 137,000 in the world.

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