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China’s handling of coronavirus receives public praise, sparking soul-searching over US failure in emergency response

By Xian Jiangnan (People's Daily Online)    15:09, February 20, 2020

People’s Daily Online published a coronavirus-related video on Feb. 18, which triggered heated discussion from readers. (Screenshot of People’s Daily Online’s website)

A coronavirus-related video published by People’s Daily Online on Feb. 18 has triggered heated discussion on social media. Entitled “Fact check: Is US emergency response system up to par?”, the video compares China’s handling of the novel coronavirus epidemic with the US’ emergency response in similar situations, in which China’s response to the coronavirus won high praise from the public while triggering soul-searching over US shortcomings in its emergency response system.

After the video was released, posts by netizens worldwide showing support and agreement flooded the comments section, with many unstintingly applauding the piece for being evidence-based and realistic.

“Those in the know about such pandemics are lavishing praise on China for her efforts in preventing it from spreading it all over the world,” read one comment on People’s Daily’s website, noting that not only has the Chinese system made China a more powerful nation, but it has also shown a better capability in controlling the spread of the disease worldwide. 

Positive comments also filled People’s Daily’s Facebook page. Facebook user AnuRuddha Bajracharya praised China for building a “1,000-bed hospital in a week” which “explains how China is working to keep it [under] control”, while another user immediately strengthened the evidence by posting a link showing that for this year’s flu season in the US, “26 million people have been infected. Out of those, 14,000 people have died from the illness”, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Inevitably, there were people who rejected this so-called “pure propaganda”, claiming that America has freedom of speech and China is a closed society where everything must be government controlled. In response to this debatable claim, one netizen said, “Your free speech is as fake as your so called one-person-one-vote ‘democratic elections’”. Others also pointed out that the claimed freedom was just a delusion. LaCarreta wrote, “Real free speech…LOL… Is that like ‘real fake news’? Don’t you even realize how demented it is to claim to be free when others can tell only what you want to hear,” adding that “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

After the video was released, netizens worldwide expressing support and agreement flooded the comments section. (Screenshot of People’s Daily’s Facebook page)

Replying to the claim that “… everything must be government controlled,” a netizen named “ganzhoulin” wittily chimed into the conversation, “Ummm, you mean like the virus which the government has controlled from spreading to the rest of the world and …to your doorstep!”

Many netizens showed their approval for the video’s argument about the “classic failure” or incapacity of the US’ emergency response system, citing examples such as the 2009 H1N1 and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

“The fact is, then, the US do nothing and let the H1N1 spread to become a global pandemic,” said Cheah Phee Kheam.

A netizen named Hari said that Beijing has been responsible, but “Washington, NO!” America should be condemned and judged in the harshest terms for failing to act promptly and decisively, thus causing between 172,000 to 577,000 deaths around the world and 12,000 within the US. “It has the temerity to judge and condemn Beijing?” he asked rhetorically, adding that it seems America has no qualms about throwing stones at China when its own house is made of glass.

In fact, the US’ emergency response system has come under question and been criticized frequently for its slowness and lack of stringent control measures over the last few years, not only from internet users, but also officials, pundits and media of all stripes.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s report pointed out that the 2009 swine flu “exposed serious underlying gaps in the US’ ability to respond to public health emergencies,” as “20 states had six or fewer of the 10 key indicators of prepared infrastructure, almost two-thirds of states had seven or fewer.”

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, asked in response to another public emergency, Hurricane Katrina, “If our system did such a poor job when there was no enemy, how would the federal, state and local governments have coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning?”

Nevertheless, China has been criticized for its handling of the coronavirus by Western media, especially the US, despite Uncle Sam’s seemingly unsatisfactory record in dealing with similar domestic emergencies. Some have been fanning stigma and discrimination against China and Chinese communities, such as the Wall Street Journal, which went so far as to publish an op-ed calling China and its people the real "Sick Man of Asia." 

In light of this, many netizens have called for solidarity, as the virus knows no borders. “The media never treated the Americans like [what] they have been doing to the Chinese now,” Dii Zd wrote on People’s Daily’s Facebook page, “No restrictions, no hate or racism.”

Some netizens shared their thoughts on the root causes of this anti-China sentiment and sinophobia.

One netizen named Cinq noted that mainstream media in the West would never portray China in a positive light because of fear and loathing of China’s rise. “There's a campaign to isolate China and limit its influence abroad. This is the dilemma of China's rise,” Cinq said, adding that this is going to be a very painful rise.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Photo/Xinhua)

During the course of China’s peaceful rise, there will always be thistles and thorns, just like the novel coronavirus crisis. Despite growing doubts and criticism, China has responded promptly to keep the coronavirus under control. By taking massive and seemingly “tough” measures, such as locking down the entire city of Wuhan, China has confined the vast majority of the epidemic to one province to protect other parts of the country, as well as the rest of the world.

Just as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, China has helped in preparing other countries and in preventing the problem from growing, which is “heroic”. “Facts speak for themselves. Let the truth speak for itself, and the world can judge,” he said, adding that China doesn’t need to ask for praise. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Bianji, Liang Jun)

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