Media

The Times Lavishes Praise on China’s Coronavirus Response and Calls It ‘Reporting’

(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Just as telling as what the new article does say is what it doesn’t.

The not-so-secret admirers of the Chinese Communist Party at the New York Times are at it again. For a long time, the Times’ opinion section has gawked at and fawned over the CCP and its ability to “get things done.” As far back as 2009, columnist Tom Friedman was arguing that “one-party autocracy” has “great advantages.” At least “when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today.” Enlightened? Is that the word?

Sadly, Friedman’s admiration for the People’s Republic of China’s brand of authoritarianism has slowly bled into the news side as well, as evidenced by the publication of a new “reported” piece on China’s coronavirus response, titled “Power, Patriotism and 1.4 Billion People: How China Beat the Virus and Roared Back.”

The article begins by asserting that China “has mobilized its vast Communist Party apparatus to reach deep into the private sector and the broader population, in what the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, has called a ‘people’s war’ against the pandemic — and won.” Its four authors further celebrate the CCP by saying that its victory in this war — the Times appears to concur with the CCP’s self-assessment — has “emboldened Mr. Xi, who has offered China’s experience as a model for others to follow.” From the sound of it, so too is the Times.

That’s far from all the praise the authors lavish on Chairman Xi and his murderous regime. For example: “The government appeals to material interests, as well as to a sense of patriotism, duty and self-sacrifice,” they tell us. Moreover, the CCP provided a Chinese pharmaceutical firm with “everything it needed” to produce a vaccine: lab space and $780,000. For perspective, the U.S. government allocated $18 billion to Operation Warp Speed, which yielded safer and more effective inoculations.

The CCP “operates in part through fear,” they acknowledge, recounting how “when a villager near Shijiazhuang tried to escape quarantine to buy a pack of cigarettes, a zealous party chief ordered him tied to a tree.” But they follow that story with an unchallenged explanation from a Chinese journalist: “Many measures seemed over the top, but as far as they’re concerned it was necessary to go over the top, if you didn’t, it wouldn’t produce results.” Ah, of course.

Just as telling as what the Times does say is what it doesn’t.

You wouldn’t know it from reading the article, but in the Xinjiang region of China, the coronavirus has not slowed down Xi Jinping’s genocidal crusade against the PRC’s Uyghur Muslim minority. In fact, the state capacity of the Chinese government has only accelerated and accentuated their persecution. At present, 1 million Uyghurs are being held captive in concentration camps, and a new report from the BBC includes horrifying details about their treatment. Uyghur women inside and outside the camps are subject to CCP-sanctioned rape — often done in front of crowds as an intimidation tactic — as well as forced sterilizations and abortions. As National Review’s editorial on the matter put it:

This all fits into Beijing’s longstanding plan of settling the region with Han Chinese, and in this future, there is no place for the Uyghurs. The regime doesn’t just want to eliminate their culture; it seeks their physical annihilation.

The Times deems the CCP’s heavy-handed response to the pandemic “patriotic” and reflective of a dutiful Chinese ethic. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Xinjiang, coronavirus measures have included forcing Uyghurs to imbibe “traditional Chinese medicines” and subjecting them to other inhumane treatment. Consider the following story from the Associated Press last August:

When police arrested the middle-aged Uighur woman at the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak, she was crammed into a cell with dozens of other women in a detention center.

There, she said, she was forced to drink a medicine that made her feel weak and nauseous, guards watching as she gulped. She and the others also had to strip naked once a week and cover their faces as guards hosed them and their cells down with disinfectant “like firemen,” she said.

“It was scalding,” recounted the woman by phone from Xinjiang, declining to be named out of fear of retribution. “My hands were ruined, my skin was peeling.” 

State power isn’t being wielded for patriotic purposes in China, it’s being used for the Party’s purposes. Some of those, such as curbing the pandemic, may have the intended outcomes. However, they have been implemented not because the CCP cares deeply about the best interests of the population, but because they provide stability, which the CCP values above all else. Patriotism is about devotion to one’s homeland, and by extension its inhabitants. There is no special bond between those at the head of the Chinese government and the Chinese people. The former is willing to intern, torture, and murder the latter to achieve its ends.

Failing to mention the CCP’s Xinjiang atrocities is bad enough. But also unmentioned in the Times piece is that the PRC used its state capacity — so venerated by the Times — to muzzle and jail doctors who dared to speak the truth about the virus, suppressing for weeks evidence of the human-to-human transmission of the virus and thus denying the rest of the world time to prepare. Remarkably, the Times’ reporters are also apparently unaware of the mountain of evidence suggesting that its case and death numbers have been doctored by the CCP. It’s easy to “win” when you control the scoreboard.

It’s a sign of moral confusion, or perhaps bankruptcy, for the New York Times to have published a puff piece — both clumsy and contextless — about a genocidal regime that unleashed a devastating pandemic on the rest of the world and call it “reporting.”

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