Brussels/Amsterdam [Belgium/Netherlands], April 16 (ANI): As the novel coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in the western world since its outbreak in Wuhan last December, researchers believe that the Chinese leadership is trying to absolve President Xi Jinping by using a section of the western media to influence public opinion globally.
“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, told ANI.
Some western media say some Chinese officials were secretly aware that they were facing a pandemic from the new coronavirus but allowed Wuhan to host a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people and millions began their annual trip home for the Lunar New Year celebrations.
The pandemic has since then affected 210 countries and territories around the world. Over 2 million people have been declared positive in which over 134,000 lost their lives.
“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 skepticism 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.”Wolf also said that the current internal dynamics in China, like the shirking of responsibilities by the local authorities, are most-likely part of a twofold strategy. Firstly, there is the strategic component – namely, to reaffirm to the general public that the Communist Party of China is still in full control of the situation. The second strategic pillar is one of ‘whitewashing’.
“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 researchers believe that the deterioration in press freedom under Jinping’s regime has become more evident in recent days, with local authorities trying to control the state narrative by cosmetically placing media’s focus on government’s superficial attempts to tackle the crisis.(ANI)