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EU should stop making absurd accusations against China

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-19 07:19
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European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

In a joint communication on June 10, the European Union accused Russia and China of spreading disinformation on COVID-19. But nothing could be further from the truth. I was intrigued reading the "examples of disinformation" in the "getting the facts right" section. They include the false claim that drinking bleach can cure novel coronavirus infection; the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus is a creation of the world's elites to reduce population growth; and the narrative that COVID-19 is linked to 5G networks. None of these has anything to do with China but much to do with the United States.

People are too familiar with the bleach story, which the EU report says is responsible for a 15 percent jump in the number of bleach-related incidents recorded by Belgium's Poison Control Center. In my column on May 8, I mentioned another absurd accusation, that of eugenics against Bill Gates' vaccine project by conservative forces in the US.

In fact, when asked about disinformation campaigns by foreign countries, the US president admitted on Fox News on March 30 that "every country does it". The more than 82 million followers of his Twitter account and many more listening to his speeches on COVID-19 could give a long list of disinformation he has spread, including the wild allegation that he has strong evidence to prove the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory.

On March 21, the Daily Beast reported that the White House has issued a cable promoting disinformation across multiple federal agencies accusing China of being responsible for the pandemic. And a Politico report on April 24 cited a 57-page Republican strategy memo advising Senate candidates to blame China for the outbreak.

Since then, senior US officials and Republican lawmakers have been promoting more such disinformation campaigns. Yet none of those was mentioned in any EU report in the past months.

The World Health Organization and many public health experts from European countries and the US have praised China for the measures it has taken to contain the virus. And for weeks, they urged countries to seize the window of opportunity created by China's prevention and control measures, but to little avail.

The EU's accusation also includes Chinese media reports about the country's timely assistance to Italy, Serbia and some other European countries during the pandemic. But many European news outlets also filed similar reports, some of them even before the Chinese media outlets did.

Such accusations are an effort to deflect public attention from the EU's missteps in pandemic response in the beginning. The "heartfelt apology" to Italy made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in mid-April on behalf of the EU is just one example of those missteps.

I applaud the EU's responses to COVID-19, such as its solidarity with the WHO and its pledge to support global efforts to increase tests, supply medicines and vaccines, and their equitable distribution. That, however, does not mean the EU can dismiss China's extraordinary efforts to boost the global fight against the virus, including ramping up production of personal protective equipment to supply to the world, holding videoconferences to share its experiences in the fight against the virus with more than 100 countries, sending medical teams to some 20 countries, and pledging funds to the WHO and making coronavirus vaccine (once one is developed) a global public good.

The EU needs to introspect on its months of false narratives, for example, the one on wearing face masks which had severe consequences, and stop using double standard to make ludicrous accusations against China.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.

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