US-China Struggle to Control Pandemic Narrative Continues Amidst Vaccinations

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Chinese vaccination treatments under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been criticized by Chinese citizens, catching the attention of foreigners abroad.

Vaccinations under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been criticized by Chinese citizens, catching the attention of foreigners abroad. The effort to portray a positive narrative to the rest of the world while trying to smear U.S. media and spread conspiracy theories has continued amidst the pandemic’s current stage.

As early as January 2020, before the world was aware of a looming global crisis, Chinese social media users were spreading conspiracy theories blaming the U.S. for causing COVID-19. According to a Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies report from Stanford, the following conspiracy theories emerged back in January 2020:

—       Jan. 2: a Chinese-language YouTube channel shared a video dismissing the idea that the pneumonia in Wuhan was the result of U.S. genetic warfare, implying at least some dissemination of the idea prior to this. 

—       Jan. 20: a Twitter user claimed the virus was 90% similar to one that had earlier been reported to a U.S. viral gene database.

—       Jan. 21: another Twitter account wrote plainly that the “pneumonia of unknown origin in Wuhan” was caused by a “biochemical weapon developed by the U.S. military.”

—       Jan. 31: a video appearing to be an old TV segment on alleged U.S. biological warfare during the Korean war was shared to YouTube with a title asking: “Were SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 U.S. Plots?”

‘China’s changing propaganda tactics have interacted with mangled news reporting, social media conspiracy theorizing, and underlying U.S.-China tensions — all resulting in high-profile misinformation about a public health crisis,’ the Stanford report stated. Image: (Getty Images)

Since the beginning of 2021, the CCP has begun vaccinating a large mass of Chinese citizens. Xinhua reported that Beijing completed its injection of people at higher risk of infection by Jan.19, with 1.9 million people injected with the first dose of the vaccine. All the second doses are expected to be done by Feb.8, just before people start traveling to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The CCP will be using homegrown vaccines that may have some major flaws, causing concern among many citizens. Unlike Western countries, which prioritize senior citizens and essential workers, China’s strategy is aimed toward people between 18 and 59 who work for the government, public services, and travel plans. 

The Epoch Times has reported that the Chinese homegrown vaccine CoronaVac, made by Sinovac Biotech, was tested in Brazil and was found to only have a 50.4 percent efficacy rate, contrary to the 78 percent claimed by the company. 

Beijing resident Dr. Wang told The Epoch Times that he feels the Chinese-made vaccines are dangerous, and neither he nor his family will be getting them. “In other countries, if there are problems with vaccines, the media will report, and third-party agencies will investigate. The problems occurring in mainland China will not be reported. As soon as you post it online, it [the government] will delete it, and the control of speech has become stricter,” Dr. Wang stated. 

Dr. Tao Lina claimed on Chinese social media — where he has 4.8 million followers — that China’s COVID-19 vaccinations were the most unsafe globally with 73 side effects. His post has since been taken down, and his claim retracted. Dr. Tao later explained that his words were “twisted” and “exploited” and that he was speaking in a sarcastic tone. “Hereby, I extend my apologies to numerous web users and citizens across the nation, and express my despisal against the evil actions of overseas media,” Dr. Tao wrote on Chinese social media. 

In retaliation to negative media attention about the origin of the virus and faulty vaccines, China has continued to spread conspiracy theories about the U.S., claiming that the virus originated in a military lab in Maryland and denigrating the Pfizer vaccine. “[Chinese] state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news,” the Associated Press reported.

Sino-Americans struggle to control the pandemic narrative amid vaccinations. (Image: Getty Images)

 “If America respects the truth, then please open up Ft. Detrick and make public more information about the 200 or more bio-labs outside of the U.S., and please allow the WHO expert group to go to the U.S. to investigate the origins,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. Her comments became one of the most popular on Chinese social media.

The Global Times, a CCP affiliated news source known for spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories related to COVID-19, has claimed: “Chinese companies’ efforts to serve global health will not be impeded by those who seek to discredit China. The smearing campaign against Chinese vaccines will only strengthen Chinese vaccine’s credibility.” 

According to the WHO, as of Jan. 28, China has had 100,584 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 4,818 deaths, while the U.S. has 25,198,841 confirmed cases with 421,570 deaths.

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  • David Wagner is a University of Manitoba graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion in Sociology. He is interested in the psychology of religious and ideological belief and the relationship between religions and the state in totalitarian countries.