How much influence has China had on the coronavirus pandemic? | Culture Clash

China's President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Apr28, 2016 (KYODO NEWS/IORI SAGISAWA-POOL)
China's President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Apr28, 2016 (KYODO NEWS/IORI SAGISAWA-POOL) Copyright IORI SAGISAWA-POOL/AP
By Mikaela Barwick
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Freedom of speech is not some leftist nonsense, says Filip Jirous, if it had existed in China, COVID-19's impact on the world would not have been as damaging.


Globally up to now, there have been more than 194,000 COVID-19 deaths, 2.7 million cases of infection and 195 million jobs are predicted to be lost amid the lockdowns.

The human cost of the virus has been devastating and the dire economic picture won't be known for years to come.

Many are looking to China, where the virus originated, for answers.

Critics say their poor and delayed handling of the virus in the early stages did nothing to stop its spread to the rest of the world.

Watch this week's episode of Culture Clash: All eyes are on China

In December last year, China identified an unknown virus in Wuhan but authorities didn't cut off the city until 23 January.

"China's initial delay and intentional cover-up of the entire pandemic has cost the world dearly," East Asia correspondent William Yang told Culture Clash.

"Local officials found out that there was a cluster of infection cases at the Huanan Seafood Market. Even though at that time the local health officials were suspecting the market of being where the first few cases emerged, they did not stop the operation of the market until around two weeks later on 1 January," he added.

Chinese authorities also silenced doctors, like Dr Li Wenliang, who tried to warn of the outbreak early on. He later died of COVID-19.

China claims 83,000 people have caught the virus in the country.

Researchers at Hong Kong University’s school of public health, published in the Lancet, warn that this figure could be four times higher.

Last week officials in Wuhan raised the death toll by 50 per cent, attributing the new figure to "updated reporting" and deaths outside hospitals.

This revision of numbers, four months after the virus broke out, has cast further doubt on whether China has been reporting them truthfully from the very beginning.

"Freedom of speech is not just some sort of leftist, liberal nonsense," Filip Jirous, a researcher on Chinese influence researcher told Culture Clash.

"It can have a real-life impact because if there was freedom of speech in China - if there was transparency - the rest of the world would have been able to respond faster, and it wouldn't have been as damaging as it was," he added.

But not everyone is sceptical of the way China has responded to the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been quick to praise Xi Jinping's government, especially following the lockdown they imposed on the country.

"The Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak, despite the severe social and economic impact those measures are having on the Chinese people," WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on 30 January.

China insists there has been no cover-up.


"It's very unfortunate that this started in China," Zoon Ahmed Khan a journalist from Belt and Road Initiative told Culture Clash.

"But look at the response from other governments, the response from other countries. If it is China's fault that it went out of China, how many cases have been recorded in Asian countries coming from Europe? And from the United States going into neighbouring countries?"

"If the standard is that China should have kept the virus within its borders, then that standard holds for every country," she added.

Culture Clash is a weekly look at the issues shaping and shaking Europe, published every Thursday on Facebook by Euronews.

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