The Chinese government defended its handling of the coronavirus in a lengthy report, saying that the country provided information in a timely and transparent manner and that its approach to the outbreak should serve as a model for the world.
According to the 84-page report, which the State Council Information Office published on Sunday, the country “wasted no time” in sharing the genome sequence for SARS-CoV-2 with the World Health Organization. The report also said that the global health agency, as well as relevant countries and organizations, have been receiving detailed updates since Jan. 3.
An investigation from the Associated Press revealed that Beijing sat on releasing the genetic map of the virus for more than a week after Chinese scientists had finished mapping it. Despite the plaudits, WHO officials complained in internal meetings that the country was not sharing enough data, which led to significant delays in response.
The AP report also said the scientists learned about the new coronavirus after the Wall Street Journal broke the news on Jan. 8 – contrary to what Beijing’s new white paper claims. (Related: AP drops bombshell report: China suppressed critical coronavirus information FOR WEEKS.)
In response to the AP report, Ma Xiaowei, chairman of the National Health Commission, only said that it “seriously goes against the facts,” and did not address the findings further.
“The Chinese government did not delay or cover up anything,” he stated in a press briefing for the new report, which also had two ministers, two vice ministers and the president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in attendance.
“Instead, we have immediately reported virus data and relevant information about the epidemic to the international community and made an important contribution to the prevention and control of the epidemic around the world.”
The report is the latest in Beijing’s efforts to land itself in pole position, especially in geopolitical affairs. The United States, the only country to beat China’s economy, is still battling to bring outbreaks under control, as well as deal with brewing domestic unrest. Meanwhile, other countries have just made steps to reopen their economies.
With much at stake on the global stage, officials in Beijing have trumpeted their efforts to return to normal life. Wuhan – the city where the coronavirus was first identified last year – exited lockdown in April, and the capital city of Beijing has allowed people to stop wearing masks when outdoors. The country’s last remaining high-risk area also lowered its epidemic response, which the government said was a success by the Chinese people.
“They have succeeded in containing the spread of the virus,” the report said. “In this battle, China will always stand together with other countries.”
Beijing’s efforts to characterize its handling in heroic terms are often dogged by controversy. The report provided a detailed narrative of how the country joined together – under the pivotal leadership of President Xi Jinping – to beat the coronavirus.
However, it also left out the political and bureaucratic missteps that caused a full-blown crisis in Wuhan. The report made no mention of Dr. Li Wenliang, the doctor who was punished for warning his colleagues about the novel coronavirus in December. It also did not include an update to Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin, citizen journalists who vanished without a trace in Wuhan after being picked up by the police.
The report instead praised officials for implementing “an effective and well-functioning, whole-of-the-nation control mechanism” and for dedicating themselves to defeating the coronavirus. It also heavily extolled Xi, with the report saying that he “has taken personal command, planned the response, overseen the general situation and acted decisively, pointing the way forward in the fight against the epidemic.”
Premier Li Kequiang, who currently leads the country’s coronavirus response, was barely mentioned in the report.
Pandemic.news has more about the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.