China’s government has, in recent months, been engaging in a propaganda campaign to rewrite the narrative of the COVID-19 pandemic to deflect blame for not being transparent about the outbreak and allowing the virus to spread. On top of this, on 30 Jun 2020, with the introduction of the new Hong Kong security law, world leaders have accused the Chinese government of breaching the 1984 Sino-British agreement. These recent incidents have implications for the international business community. Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports
A vibrant and growing economy thrives on the rule of law, without which there will be uncertainty and instability, both factors which are detrimental in attracting investment and cultivating business confidence. It is therefore crucial, more so for now, that the rule of law is adhered to as the world is battling the pandemic-induced recession.
The rule of law is the basis for prosperity and economic progress. Maritime trade, supply chains, in fact, the whole global business ecosystem, depends on all parties to fulfil contractual obligations in order to function seamlessly and profitably. And in cases of disputes, the aggrieved party can bring their case to a court of law.
However, with the Chinese Communist leaders blatantly rewriting COVID-19 history and tearing up an international agreement, i.e. the 1984 Sino-British agreement, that guarantees Hong Kong’s autonomy for 50 years until 2047, it does not bode well for the future of the global economy.
False origins of COVID-19
For several months now, Chinese officials are rewriting the origins history of the pandemic. The virus was first detected at Hua An seafood market in the city of Wuhan in Dec 2019, which has been shut down by authorities on 1 Jan 2020 following the outbreak.
According to the Australian Financial Review, initially, it was widely reported in China’s state media that the outbreak likely started at Hua An market. However, in late Feb, there was a big change in China’s narrative as China’s Communist leaders pushed the theory that the pandemic may not have started there.
On 27 Feb, Zhong Nanshan, a pro-establishment scientist, told a press conference that even if COVID-19 first appeared in China, it may not have originated in China. The Financial Review went on to state that Zhong’s remark opened the floodgates to anti-American comments which suggested the virus came from the US.
The formidable propaganda machinery, including Chinese diplomats, state media and officials have, in a concerted effort to rewrite history, propagated this anti-American nationalistic view. The following are notable incidents.
On 8 Mar, China’s ambassador to South Africa said on Twitter that the virus was not necessarily made in China. From 12 Mar, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted, without given any evidence, that the US military might have brought the virus to Wuhan. The South China Morning Post reported that his five consecutive tweets questioning the US had been read more than 4.7 million times on Weibo, China’s Twitter, as of 13 Mar, with many praising the diplomat’s rhetoric.
Communist leaders snub international agreement
In a more recent event, China’s government approved the new security law in Hong Kong on 30 Jun, which gives sweeping power for them to investigate and pursue suspected criminals within Hong Kong, thus effectively ending the “one country, two systems” mode of governance. The UK, US, Australia and Canada said this would threaten the autonomy of the former colony and jeopardize its role as a global financial hub, the Straits Times reported.
According to CNN, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned that China can’t be trusted. He has questioned whether China can be trusted to live up to international obligations after its move to introduce the new security law contravenes the 1984 Sino-British agreement.
In the CNN report, Secretary Raab said: “It’s a matter of trust, and lots of countries around the world are asking this question – does China live up to its international obligations? Because if they can’t be trusted to keep their word on Hong Kong, why would they be trusted to live up to their wider international responsibilities.”