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China Prepares For Another Battle While It Battles COVID-19

Updated: May 18, 2020

The two research papers that were uploaded by Chinese Universities regarding the origins of COVID-19 were taken off the internet. This was followed by the imposition of stricter vetting policies for academic publications through a directive that was announced by the Chinese government. These policies were imposed upon any research regarding the origins of the novel Coronavirus. These policies might have been implemented to save face and prevent any sort of revelation that would put the reputation of the Chinese Government in jeopardy.

According to the Central Investigation Agency (USA), the real number of those infected by the novel coronavirus have been severely understated by the Chinese Government, when compared to the statistics of those who have been infected around the world. The suppression of the freedom of press and the freedom of academic expression in China is a matter of concern as the world battles against the Coronavirus. The limited information provided by one of the first countries to be infected only further cripples our understanding of the virus consequently delaying any efficacious global response.

The Chinese government cautioned the public of COVID-19 as a threat 6 days after it had secretly acknowledged the spread of the virus. In the interim, that is the six days, there were reports of over three thousand infections in China. The threat also included the fact that millions of citizens of other countries, tourists who had come to Wuhan to celebrate the lunar new year, were also suspected to have contracted the virus.

The official procedure for calculation the number of cases is primarily dependent on the submission of the statistics by the provinces to the respective state governments. There have been reports that show that China failed to count the asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 as positive cases. Considering that 20%-25% of the cases are asymptomatic, the true number of infections that have originated in China are again further understated as these figures were not counted by the Chinese government lowering the accuracy of other statistical publications. Consequently, as these patients are not detected by thermal screening it is nearly impossible to trace their movements. This also increased the possibility of transmission of the virus to other countries, making it harder for other governments to cope up.

Addressing the elephant in the room - the directive, that was issued by the Chinese government scrutinising the research papers being published by universities, could have been a way to either disrupt and prevent the revelation of damning evidence against the Chinese Government or to prevent the development of a story that criticises China for the growth of the virus. The possibility of such an event taking place is quite likely. According to the World Press Freedom Index, published by the non-profit - Reporters Without Borders, China ranked in the 177th position for Freedom of Press in the World. The suppression of the press leads the world into uncharted territories. Publications that have been released by the government run agencies might not be the most accurate and might leave out crucial details, details that are critical in the fight against Corona.

Doctor Li Wenliang, one of the first few doctors who raised alarms about the virus, had been summoned by the Chinese police and was forced to sign a statement that rendered his social media posts, that attempted to raise an alarm regarding the virus, illegal. Doctor Li later contracted the virus from a patient and died. There have been multiple reports regarding other doctors from the Wuhan Central Hospital who were silenced using similar methods by the Chinese police. The current period of the pandemic has been a test for Whistleblowing laws around the world. There have been several reports of silencing of whistleblowers while attempting to report cases that have a global impact. Silencing of whistleblowers might give the Chinese government an opportunity to prevent any further catalyzation of the Minyun Movement (Pro-democracy Movements) but, it comes at cost - a cost of restricting critical information from the rest of the world.

While the government battles whistleblowers from across the country, there have been speculations that the second wave of the spread of COVID19 might be on course to hit the country. According to the government the new cases that are emerging are imported and have been contracted by people who have had a history of foreign travel. These reports might only be parts to the story that the Chinese government is trying to portray to avoid earning itself the tag of the - epicentre of the coronavirus. However, it is believed by analysts around the world that the government might be refusing to carry out further tests for the symptomatic and asymptomatic conditions in an attempt to bring back the economy to its original power only furthering China’s own battle during this global crisis.

Is this the end of the Chinese crisis or just the beginning of another cycle, a cycle that may catalyse an economic or, far greater, a political revolution in China?

Author : Aviral Bhardwaj

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