COVID-19 the single most weaponized disease outbreak
In late December several countries, including Japan and Italy, began requiring that inbound Chinese travelers undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test on arrival. Similarly, the United States also implemented a rule that Chinese travelers present a negative COVID test result upon entry, a less stringent requirement, but one no less politically motivated.
Upon implementing the rule, US officials accused Beijing of "lacking transparency" in respect to COVID-19. The announcements have all been backed by rampant hysteria by the mainstream Western media, who have sought to disingenuously portray China's situation as disastrous and stoke up fear of the outbreak, only weeks after having decried the country's zero-COVID strategy as outdated.
This coverage is all very familiar. From the very beginning of the pandemic to the present day, China has been demonized wholesale by Western media and politicians for every single decision it has made, no matter what the circumstances or outcome. It is not misleading or an overstatement to say that as such, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the single most weaponized disease outbreak in modern history, which has been used to repeatedly demonize and attack a specific country with the view to advancing American foreign policy goals.
From the beginning of the pandemic, to speculations about its origins, to questions over vaccines, to zero-COVID, and now to opening, the manner of reporting has been nothing short of extreme bad faith.
And the hypocrisy manifest in this latest turn in coverage is very revealing. For at least a year now, Western countries have long decided that COVID is "over," and moved to policy approaches which effectively pretend the pandemic does not exist, despite the horrific toll it has taken on their own populations.
In the summer of 2021, the British government declared "freedom day" and vowed to do away with all COVID restrictions in catering to populist sentiment. The mood in America, where an approximate 1.1 million people (0.3% of the entire population) has died of COVID, is similar. Restrictions are bad, and the rhetoric of shifting away from the virus has emphasized freedom and economic growth. To these countries, COVID might as well as not exist anymore.
That is, until China comes into the picture. With China having adjusted its pandemic management approach, the United States, amongst others, has conveniently remembered that COVID exists again, and despite the horrifically high death tolls in their own countries, which never seemed to bother them previously, they have immediately jumped toward using China again to weaponize the pandemic, pursuing political point scoring and fear mongering.
US officials have deliberately used cynical language such as a "lack of transparency." While the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) also raised the alarm about "potential new variants," these same politicians not even a month ago were relentlessly criticizing China's zero-COVID policy as supposedly being oppressive.
As it were in 2020, the utilization of China to spark fears about a virus or disease is motivated by underlining racism and xenophobia which is part of a discourse known as "Yellow Peril." Despite the reality that Western countries have suffered high losses and failed to manage the pandemic effectively, it is beneficial and convenient to "deflect" political responsibility pertaining to a disease outbreak on a foreign "other" which can be construed as "backwards" or "uncivilized."
While these prejudices were much more explicit in the past, in the modern era they are often veiled with an ideological facade of anti-Communism, concealing obvious prejudices for China behind a dislike of its political system. Thus, the United States is still able to weaponize this sentiment through "dog whistle" terms such as "lack of transparency" or "new variants."
In doing this, politicians seek opportunities to win support by showing hostility toward China. While of course travel restrictions earlier in the pandemic were a legitimate and appropriate measure which were widely implemented, the hypocrisy and insincerity of such decisions are visible through the fact one country is being singled out and targeted, despite politicians having also said previously COVID was no longer threatening or harmful and it was time to "move on."
This shows, as has been the case throughout the pandemic as a whole, that the real goal is to use COVID again and again to target China in a hostile, discriminatory and defamatory manner. Western countries themselves have done very little to fight COVID and long given up, yet have spared no effort in attacking China at every step of the way.
(The author, a postgraduate student of Chinese studies at Oxford University, is a South Korea-based English analyst on international relations. The views are his own.)