Commentary / Coronavirus

CNN’s Chinese Propaganda

ChineseSpeaking truth to power apparently means toeing the Beijing line on COVID-19.

‘Who controls the past controls the future,” wrote George Orwell in 1984. “Who controls the present controls the past.” In the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, many interested parties have attempted to rewrite recent events that are barely even history, much as happens in Orwell’s dystopian novel. These parties hope to cast in their own favor the still-congealing consensus about the sequence of events that led to the outbreak, its spread, and its severity.

The most brazen such efforts belong to the Chinese Communist Party, which is now reinterpreting recent events to exploit the outbreak that its own actions and inactions caused. One would think that, CNN — a news organization that declares itself fond of speaking truth to power, that likes to declare that an apple is an apple — would block the CCP’s attempts to rewrite recent history.

But one would be mistaken. In a CNN “analysis,” James Griffiths admits that China’s leaders “have not been blind to the opportunity” that coronavirus presents to flaunt the supposed superiority of their own political model. Yet Griffiths then proceeds to toe the Beijing line on China’s handling of the coronavirus, America’s efforts, and the global implications of both. It’s propaganda thinly disguised as reporting.

Griffith’s most egregious propagandizing concerns the Chinese government itself, which deserves most of the blame for the spread of COVID-19. Griffiths seems eager to whitewash that government’s conduct and undercut its critics’ valid concerns. It is “debatable how communist modern China actually is,” Griffiths offers. That may technically be true — China is no longer taking Great Leaps Forward, to be sure. But its political apparatus remains oppressive enough to send hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighurs, a disfavored minority, to concentration camps. And, directly bearing on the crisis at hand, China engaged in typical totalitarian behavior by suppressing early knowledge of the infection’s spread. By imprisoning whistleblowers, it delayed public awareness of the virus’s spread by several weeks (something it had done before, in the 2003 SARS outbreak).

So it’s strange for Griffiths to quote German foreign minister Heiko Maas’s assertion that “China has taken some very authoritarian measures, while in the U.S., the virus was played down for a long time.” These are not mutually exclusive actions: The Chinese government took authoritarian measures to downplay the virus. The suppression of the information allowed China to publicly condone mass gatherings in a knowingly infected city and to allow thousands of citizens to leave the country.

Griffiths takes at face value China’s self-reported figures indicating that it has dealt better with the coronavirus than other places have. But we should be skeptical of these figures; the actual number and extent of cases may be orders of magnitude higher, but China’s totalitarian control of information will probably make it impossible to learn the truth. At the very least, we should put asterisks next to the data from China.

We should also condemn the truly oppressive measures the government took to contain the virus. No humane society can approve the welding shut of apartments, the home confinement of the overwhelming majority of residents, restricted travel into, within, and out of the city, and a variety of other measures. These measures would not have been necessary if the government had been honest about the spread from the beginning. One study estimates that up to 95 percent of the virus’s spread could have been reduced had the Chinese government acted earlier, when fewer cases would have made treatment easier.

Despite all this, Griffiths depicts America’s response as worse than China’s. The effectiveness of the Chinese response, he writes, “could be perceived to be a strong argument that an empowered state is what is needed to respond to the pandemic.” He adds:

The crisis has also highlighted the benefits of a strong government and centralized planning, while . . . exposing the limitations of private industry to respond quickly, particularly in the healthcare sector.  . . .  In the United States, which is often held up — for better or worse — as the example par excellence of a Western democracy, the alternative to the Chinese model appears to be somewhat chaotic.

But where he sees an apparently disempowered state unable to do anything, a more accurate picture is an American government with plenty of resources, though too often it’s incompetent at deploying them, hamstringing both public and private efforts at fighting crises, including this one. That is a valid critique. But it is not the ironclad case for stronger government that Griffiths supposes. As it was left to Joe Biden to point out in a Democratic-primary debate, coronavirus is not itself a case for complete government control of health care; if it were, Italy, which has universal health care, would not have experienced arguably the Western world’s worst outbreak. There are other variables at play.

Griffiths might have a point about America’s “chaotic” response if he were talking about the different approaches takes by individual states. But America believed in letting a thousand flowers bloom well before Mao claimed to. America’s 50 states are not mere administrative units: They are, and always have been, considerable sources of political power. In this crisis, they have also proven to be more effective — and more accessible — administrators of mitigation measures than a centralized state would have been. This is not to say that all states have handled the crisis perfectly. But their measures are implemented on a smaller scale, and in a fashion closer to the ground, because of how our political system distributes power. And America gets to benefit from seeing what works and what doesn’t, as different states try different approaches to fit different populations and conditions. The Chinese approach might appeal to tyrants, but it would have never been possible here, or desirable.

Griffiths’s bias continues when he describes China’s relationship with the rest of the world. He casts China as a newly invigorated defender of international institutions. But just maybe this is a strategy China has adopted to maximize its self-interest. He doesn’t consider the possibility. “China has emerged as the strongest defendant of the World Health Organization (WHO) as it faces pressure from Washington,” he writes. But this is the same organization whose head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a controversial Ethiopian politician, had China’s support in his accession to the position. After taking the helm, Tedros steered the WHO in China’s favor at every step in the first few weeks of the outbreak. He went so far as to deny the possibility of human-to-human transmission at a time when the Chinese government demanded that the WHO push this message.

Griffiths also cites examples of Chinese beneficence, such as its provision of medical supplies around the world, but he fails to note that many of these products China sold are defective and don’t work. He lauds Chinese influence, such as the popularity of its Internet model in the wake of “crises around fake news and online disinformation,” but he doesn’t mention that China itself is pushing coronavirus disinformation. In light of such perfidy, it is impossible to take seriously, for example, a statement made by the Chinese Communist newspaper China Daily, which Griffiths nonetheless does:

The United Nations will be 75 this year, COVID-19 is reminding countries of the continuous and increasing value of multilateralism in a closely connected world. We will only halt COVID-19 through solidarity. No country can do it alone.

It is true that no country now can stop coronavirus on its own. But that is largely thanks to the behavior of the Chinese Communist Party in the first place.

Amid the pro-China blather, Griffiths does make the good point that “many of the governments praised for their handling of the virus — Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, and Germany — are democracies.” One of that series, in particular, deserves to be highlighted. Taiwan, perhaps most of all nations in the world, has reason not to trust China, which has sought for decades to snuff it out. Excluded from the World Health Organization, Taiwan ignored its downplaying of the virus, disregarded the Chinese government’s prevarication, and acted quickly and aggressively against COVID-19. As a result, it experienced perhaps the developed world’s least severe outbreak (429 cases, 6 deaths) and looks set to return to normalcy soon. It, too, is providing medical supplies around the world — though, unlike China, it is donating them rather than selling them. Does Griffiths consider the possibility that Taiwan will emerge stronger, or in a better position, than China? Or that Taiwan’s model for political life will become more attractive? He does not; this is the only mention Taiwan receives in his “analysis.”

Griffiths concludes that “Beijing also appears to have a greater appreciation than most of its rivals of the potential opportunities presented by the current crisis to emerge stronger and more influential than ever before.” This may or may not be true. But it is strange that a supposed “analysis” seems so keen on sharing the Chinese government’s assumptions and perspective, and eager to help it rewrite recent history. Maybe Winston Smith isn’t the only one who loves Big Brother.

Reprinted with Permission from - National Review by - Jack Butler

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2 years ago

CNN is definitely a Communist network! We need to shut them down!

dino deplorable
2 years ago

What is CNN,chinese news network,you people ARE evil and I would say when you die you would go to hell,but,then you would rule and that would make hell even worse.

2 years ago

This “outbreak” was not an accident, it was an act of war. Stupidly, the Chinese Communist regime tried to blame the US when the outbreak of a “novel” (read never seen before/engineered/created) virus took place in the home city of the Chinese Communists germ warfare institute.
Releasing it on their own population has many advantages for them.
Plausible denial. Passive vectors thier own people going about their normal “business”. Social engineering to eliminate the old, the weak, the unproductive.
How many of the Central Committee, PLA, senior party members died? We will never find out because Communists and Socialists lie. Always.
It would be deliciously ironic if the karmic retalliation of the world and their own viral act of war resulted in the destruction of the Regime and Party by a vengeful proletariat!

2 years ago

Why don’t people who believe that an authoritarian centralized government is better than our constitutional government go live under that government for a while.

2 years ago

China is an adversary, western companies should have left communist China yesterday.
Enough said, China can never be trusted.

dominick m carella
2 years ago

There is no China. Peoples Republic of China,,,AKA…Communist China…America’s Enemy along with that fake news mob.

Keith H
2 years ago

China is an enemy of freedom, China is a communist country with a dictatorship. The Democrat Communist Party here in America are lockstep with that very country. They are complicit because they want to destroy America. And CNN is the Communist media for them both. FAKE NEWS NETWORK, total lies spewed 24/7. If you get your news from CNN, well I guess that makes you a very uninformed person. Or if you got a public school education then their lies are probably truth to you. And the informed know that they don’t teach you how to think. They teach you what to think. Common Core indoctrination will make good little slave worker bees for the leftist elite !!

dino deplorable
2 years ago

SO,how do we deal with these Chinese entities.They are not like the normal AMERICANS.The rulers in china are not the nicest people in the world.They are communist and about three clicks above the democrats in AMERICA.Both would love to destroy the AMERICAN way.

Mickie Enders
2 years ago

I remember a man who said, “We need to close our borders.”
I remember a man who said, “We need to bring our businesses home.”
I remember a man who said, “We need to become less dependent on other countries to survive.”
I remember a man who said, “We need to take care of America first!!!”
Now I know all the reasons why Trump said those things…
AND, I’ll never forget those who purposely got in his way.

2 years ago
Reply to  Mickie Enders

Now if, which is a BIG IF, voters would remember those people who got in the way, and do the right thing and VOTE them all out of office. I realize we can’t vote the media out; other than turning them off.

Brenda Blunt
2 years ago

How about the USA no longer purchase items from China or any other Asian country. How about the USA manufacturer our own products!! USA has the people to provide for our own. USA has higher standards!!

Sergio Olivares
2 years ago
Reply to  Brenda Blunt

Yea good IDEA! Latin American Nations has a talent and hard-labor people as China or other country of the World. The manufacture in Latin Country’s may be competitive as China $$$

2 years ago


2 years ago

What do you expect to hear from those who don’t believe in something more than you can see and touch? Higher existence.

Pete from St Pete
2 years ago

The fact that so many younger Americans seem to think that socialism, let alone communism, offers a path to a better, fairer, world of social justice is a blot on our educational system. We who lived through the post World War II cold war years know better, but our educators have not conveyed that to succeeding generations. They seem to consider socialism a Utopian world where social justice reigns for everyone instead of the reality that it represents a dystopian reality that the interests of the state far outweigh the freedom of the individual.

Dr. Cissero
2 years ago

This Communist China dilemma began in the late 1940s after the second world war. At the Yalta Conference (February 4-11, 1945) where our Chinese ally Chiang Kai-shek, was excluded from this conference. Roosevelt ( sycophant of Stalin) and Churchill acceded to Stalin’s demands for increased influence in postwar Asia.
When the war ended, the United States demanded that Chiang Kai-shek give the communists representation in the government of China. He refused. On orders of General George C. Marshall, all American aid was withheld from Chiang. Because of this embargo, Chiang could not get fuel for his tanks, and no ammunition for his guns.
By 1949, the communists, supplied by Russia, were overrunning China. Chang evacuated the remnants of his army and his government to Formosa.

Taken from pages 29 and 30 from the book None Dare Call It Treason by John Stormer. A book that clearly shows why the world in its present condition. Copyright 1964.

Press ONE for English
2 years ago

Here’s the most frightening quote from the article:

“…an empowered state is what is needed…”

Let that sink in. Then consider that someone who lives here, as opposed to someone in power in a totalitarian country, someone who is chosen to “report the news” to us. That’s got to scare the fur off any reasonable freedom loving person. But it gets worse. There are far too many people among us, people who VOTE (by mail or absentee, probably) for whom credible news sources include CNN (Communist Numbskull Network), MSNBC (Mao Says Nobody Beats China), Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live.

One thing puzzles me, though. This virus bug thing is very serious, with life and death implications. What would YOU do if you felt your life was in danger here? Run for your life, James Griffith. Run to China, where you will feel safe. You’ll love it there. It’s your kinda place.

2 years ago

IMO This reporter along with others & many Dem., socialist in our gov should be charged with subvertion . I am very strong believer in our Constitution but these people are trying to undermine it. My question is how much did it cost Soros & the DNC to make covid-19 & turn it loose

Feli Reyes
2 years ago

Amen! Would that include Dr. Fauci?

2 years ago

Information I have read and heard leads me to conclude China “accidently” released the deadly virus – which most probably being researched for means of germ warfare?

2 years ago
Reply to  Joanned

Not thinking it was accidental may have been done to destroy the world economy?

Francis Elliott
2 years ago

We must remember that the news coming out of China has been sanitized by the Communist Party. I lived in China for three years and have some understanding of their system.

G. L.
2 years ago

All I can say to Griffiths is : “Welcome to the Communist Party comrade, why don’t you just move to China.” This type of broadcasting is why I never view CNN anymore.

Larry Peterson
2 years ago

CNN is over flowing toilet that will never stop spewing it crap journalism. Anyone who watches it is a fool. that’s why I turned it our years ago.

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