As COVID-19 restrictions have lowered the world’s volume to an eerie hush, the virtual world has lit up as those lonely in quarantine seek camaraderie, news on the pandemic, or simply a cure for boredom.
In the midst of this boom in online activity, there has been one notable silence: A lack of outrage against the Chinese government.
On the contrary, in an effort to deflect blame, the media has painted coronavirus as a freak accident of nature, or justice for humanity’s sins against the environment. Ever-sensitive to political correctness, the media has condemned President Trump as racist for using the term “Chinese Virus” despite the fact that many viruses have been named after their place of origin, such as the Spanish Flu, and many members of the media used this term before Trump. Rather than focusing on what actually matters — a global pandemic that, at the time of this writing, has killed more than 20,000 people — the media has put terminology and protecting China from blame at the forefront of its agenda.
Make no mistake: The spread of the coronavirus is a result of China’s corrupt government. The media’s reluctance to call out China is not an isolated incident. In fact, it reveals the pattern of not only the media but also world leaders who chose to remain silent as the Chinese government endangers the world with unethical policies.
China lost its chance at curbing the novel coronavirus twice. The first time was after the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2002. This virus was also caused by China’s wet markets and killed 774 people globally. No longer able to ignore the glaring public health risk for fear of public outcry, China loosely enforced bans on the markets for a short period before allowing them to run amok once again. Had China used an infinitesimal portion of its budget to continue shutting down these markets, the current crisis could have been avoided entirely.
The second time the Chinese government missed its chance at preventing the pandemic happened when it was first alerted of the outbreak in December 2019. Rather taking appropriate action to contain and remedy the situation, Chinese leadership silenced and persecuted the heroic Chinese doctors, researchers, and journalists who risked their lives to warn the world of the impending crisis. If China had restricted travel to Wuhan, where the virus is said to have originated, early on and not wasted precious time that could have been spent developing vaccines and a response strategy, the current situation would likely be far more hopeful.
Instead, China’s government selfishly attempted to cover up the consequences of its own irresponsibility. And the world is paying the price.
In the light of this situation, there has been a strange, disconcerting lack of public outrage. Even when China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, blamed the U.S. military for causing the pandemic without evidence, it only lasted one news cycle. Donald Trump choosing to call the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” as a response, however, has remained a favorite talking point.
China’s failure to take responsibility for the situation is unacceptable, but frankly understandable. The response of the American news media, however, is not. The morally-upright thing for the Chinese government to do in this situation would be to accept blame for the catastrophe, apologize, and give recompensory money and medical supplies to the victims. But it comes as no surprise to anyone that China is deflecting. China is a nation and nations act nationalistically — in their own favor, and for their own interests.
What has proven inconceivably hypocritical is the messaging of the news media and lack of backlash by world leaders against China. While the media is hyper-focused on President Trump for using the term “Chinese virus,” it fails to report on the 1 million Uyghur Muslims that the Chinese government is holding in concentration camps because of their race. In a world economy dependent on Chinese exports, no one is willing to speak out and face the consequences.
Until world leaders and the media stand up to Chinese Communist Party, the novel coronavirus will not be the last time the world suffers at China’s hands.
Carly Fisher is a sophomore studying history.