Beijing has accelerated its propaganda battle after the Union was accused of pandering to China over a report alleging the superpower was deliberately spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak. It comes after German officials claimed Chinese diplomats had pressured Germany to speak positively about China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
An article entitled ‘Why the COVID-19 epidemic is so politicised’ appeared on the diplomatic missions website where an unknown Chinese diplomat sought to explain why questions have been raised over China’s handling of the deadly disease.
It said “some Westerners are beginning to lose confidence in liberal democracy,” and “some Western countries have become psychologically weak”.
Antoine Bondaz, a research fellow at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research think tank who is focused on China, said: “China considers Europe the soft belly of the West.
“In their logic, there is the West, and in it the US that will oppose China for structural and ideological reasons, and their European allies that need to be neutral in case of conflict between China and the US.
The news comes as China attempts to deflect blame or criticism of its handling of the outbreak, which broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, with a heavy propaganda campaign.
But it comes at a time when Brussels attempts to pull off a balancing act as the coronavirus outbreak scrambles international relations.
While Brussels may be furious over China’s deflection, they rely heavily on Beijing for masks and medical supplies to fight the outbreak.
Over the weekend, it emerged that China was accused of openly threatening the EU – warning Brussels to block a report alleging Beijing was deliberately spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, or face the consequences.
A senior Beijing official contacted European officials and warned them it would be “very bad for cooperation” if the report, which accused China of running “a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame” for the coronavirus outbreak was released, according to sources.
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Four diplomatic sources told Reuters the report was set to be released on April 21 but was delayed after Chinese officials picked up on a Politico news report that previewed its findings.
An EU diplomat claimed a senior Chinese official contacted European officials in Beijing the same day to tell them that, “if the report is as described and it is released today it will be very bad for cooperation”.
The report was eventually released but with some criticism of the Chinese government reportedly rearranged or removed, a sign of the balancing act Brussels is trying to pull off as the coronavirus outbreak scrambles international relations.
According to EU diplomatic correspondence, senior Chinese foreign ministry official Yang Xiaoguang had warned that publishing the report would make Beijing “very angry” and accused European officials of trying to please “someone else” – something Brussels diplomats understood to be a reference to Washington.
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