The new outbreak of COVID-19 spoils the party for Xi Jinping’s birthday, which should have celebrated his “victory” on the virus. Propaganda reacts by blaming Northern Europe.
by Massimo Introvigne
All was ready for President Xi Jinping’s 67th birthday on June 15. He was celebrated as the key Marxist thinker of the 21st century. His allegedly successful handling of the SARS epidemic in Zhejiang, when he was the CCP Secretary there, was presented as preparing him to defeat COVID-19 on the national and even international scale.
The best parties are often spoiled, and rather than the “victory” over the virus Xi Jinping’s birthday came with the announcement that, one after the other, sections of Beijing were going into lockdown after a new outbreak of COVID-19, defined as “explosive.”
What was mostly exploding in the CCP’s hands was its own propaganda. All of a sudden, the narrative of a virus “under control,” and of China as a model for the world thanks to the effective leadership of Xi Jinping, collapsed. On June 7, the CCP had published a triumphalist “White Paper,” explaining that to defeat the virus Xi chaired 14 meetings of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, not to mention other crucial meetings. International media had dismissed the “White Paper” as propaganda, while acknowledging that China appeared to have eradicated the virus. Beijing shows that this was not the case. The collapse of the “victory” narrative is such a serious problem for the CCP that, if it publicly admits that the situation in Beijing may be as bad as Wuhan when the crisis started, probably the real numbers in the Chinese capital are much higher than those reported.
Damage control has already started. Since it would be inconceivable for the CCP to admit that Xi Jinping’s plans were less than perfect, propaganda is already blaming the West for the outbreak. This time, it is Northern Europe. A few hours only after the authorities had to admit that the situation in Beijing was becoming “explosive,” reports started circulating that the virus had been found on imported European salmon on a cutting board in Beijing’s Xinfadi market.
One Yang Peng, a researcher at the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, appeared on China Central Television and claimed that, ‘Whole-genome sequencing found that the virus came from the direction of Europe, so our preliminary conclusion is that it’s an imported infection.” Later, however, an official from Beijing’s health commission told financial news outlet Caixin that Yang’s were the “scientific assumptions of just one CDC expert.” The same Caixin remarked that it was more probable that the board in the Beijing market where the salmon was cut was contaminated, rather than the salmon itself, and that it was unheard of that the virus can contaminate a fish and travel with the packaged salmon from Europe to China. Perhaps not fully believing its own propaganda blaming Northern Europe for the virus, the CCP punished the bureaucrats responsible for the Xinfadi market.
At the same time, the CCP’s propaganda mouthpiece Global Times tried to persuade the world that the European salmon, rather than the poor Chinese management of the large Xinfadi market, was to blame. Not surprisingly, the usually pro-Chinese WHO was embarrassed, but limited itself to say that the origins of the Beijing virus outbreak are “uncertain,” although it had to admit that it was not considering the imported salmon as the “primary hypothesis.” The CCP’s fishy story is best seen as a clumsy attempt to blame foreigners as usual, and as further evidence that the official propaganda is incapable of convincingly explaining the new outbreak.