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China has been widely commended in quickly controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. Many have noted how the existing stringent restrictions on freedoms in the Communist state allowed President Xi Jinping to impose stricter, more draconian measures than in other countries around the world. Nonetheless, the country managed to stop the virus’ spread, and has since harnessed the public relations opportunities that have blossomed.
There have still been pockets of outbreaks: Today, 137 new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in the north-western city of Kashgar, Xinjiang, were recorded.
Yet, these were only the first new local cases recorded for ten days in mainland China, compared with the UK’s additional 19,790 cases in the course of a day over the weekend.
China is now ramping up both its English-language media and domestic state media campaigns in a bid to defend the country’s handling of the pandemic while highlighting the “failure” of Western governments.
Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher at the organisation Human Rights Watch, told Express.co.uk how the Chinese state is portraying the West to its citizens, offering an unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the censored state.
She explained: “Journalists in the Chinese state media, they portray the situation as the US having failed the people.
“The narrative being pushed there is that the West has failed and China has succeeded.
“There’s still news from external sources being found in China; for example, you can live in the US but set up a Chinese social media account and post articles on the platform.
“However, many of these articles, especially if they criticise the Chinese government, will be censored and deleted.
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“There’s still this little space where people can talk and read about what goes on outside China, but the moment you mention or even remotely criticise China, then you get censored; you get deleted.”
Ms Wang, who was born and brought up in China, has written widely on China’s so-called “Great Firewall’.
The Firewall is a combination of legislative actions and technologies enforced by the Chinese state which strictly regulates the domestic internet, ensuring nothing from outside gets in – thus, platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia are all banned on the mainland.
China has instead created its own social media, the biggest and most popular being WeChat, an app similar to Twitter.
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Here, Ms Wang explained how reams of disinformation about the West is spread by users.
Dangerously, she said that this disinformation often plays into the hands of the state and is therefore not removed or censored.
Ms Wang explained: “There’s so much disinformation on WeChat, especially about the US.
“I’ve seen things about how the US is on the verge of collapse due to soaring levels of violence – and the government welcomes this, it serves them no purpose to remove it, so they utilise it.”
Meanwhile, many noted China’s desperation to carve a “saviour” figure of itself in the West as the pandemic made its way across the globe.
In April, in what was at the time dubbed as an act of “facemark diplomacy” photographs emerged of a number of boxes carrying Chinese personal protective equipment (PPE) arriving at Heathrow Airport, many of which were labelled “Keep Calm and Cure Coronavirus”.
Similar Mask Diplomacy was found in the US in June when Chinese diplomats arrived at The Chinese Consulate in Houston to provide free meals and PPE to the local hospital, St Francis Medical Centre.
China is at the bottom of the World Press Freedom Index.
Throughout the pandemic, it has been accused of down-playing its own coronavirus cases.
Despite this, it has long complained of unfair coverage by Western news publications.
In reaction to this, it has as recently as March expelled Western journalists from the country.
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