"To be or not to be, that is the question," Hamlet said in his famous soliloquy when faced with the difficult choice of life or death. But, it appears that Western media are even more perplexed than the tragic prince when it comes to the question of whether China should "open or not open" under COVID.
Since China optimized its pandemic prevention and control measures, some Western media have been quick to hype all kinds of disastrous results as China opened up. It seemed like only a few months or even days ago that the same media were decrying China's "dynamic zero-COVID" policy.
One of the loudest in beating the drum for China’s policy adjustment was The Economist, which published an article in early June last year demanding China abandon its dynamic zero-COVID policy, claiming, "In stamping out COVID, China has stomped on confidence." But when China reopened, it lectured, "China is loosening its COVID restrictions at great risk." and "How China’s reopening will disrupt the world economy."
Another example would be CNN’s article in September asking about China’s "Zero-COVID at what price?" while the same outlet carried another report in December: "As China moves away from zero COVID, health experts warn of dark days ahead."
The Guardian headline from November 30th read: "Zero COVID can’t continue in China; reopening is the only way to quell public anger." But just 4 days later, the media that demanded China let the virus loose claimed, "Fears of deadly infection surge as China abandons zero-COVID policy."
The list goes on.
Odd? Well, such contradictory behavior has actually a sense of déjà vu about it. Not just COVID policies—whatever China does, it's all bad. In the past two years, they warned about the enormous risks, if China doesn’t "loosen up," and they do exactly the same now that China has dismantled its COVID measures. Where’s the logic?
The double standard persists. While sensationalizing every COVID story in China, these media outlets also turned a blind eye to the chaotic COVID policies that resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of excessive deaths in their own nations.
Unlike most Western countries with their "let it rip" approach to the pandemic, China's "dynamic zero policy," which does not mean "zero infection," but rather cutting off the spread of new infections as soon as possible and extending the preparation period to an orderly and controlled opening up, resulted in over 90% of the population being fully vaccinated and the avoidance of 4 waves of infections by lethal variants. The West doesn’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to COVID strategy, does it?
Despite having four times the population of the United States, China had a much lower COVID death rate. While Americans' average life expectancy fell from 78.8 years in 2019 to 76.1 years in 2021, the figure in China actually grew 0.9 years to 78.2.
As COVID still rages across the world, what's probably more dangerous than Omicron or even the next new variant is the deeply ingrained arrogance and zero-sum mentality that may drag our world into disarray and a downward spiral of further conflicts.
Here is a wild idea for some of my western colleagues: Instead of being inconsistent and caught in a bind, why not drop the prejudice and the hypocrisy, and simply report the facts as they are?
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