A new deadly virus is infecting all aspects of society in China.
Known as AFP-22 or anti-foreign paranoia, it has seeped into state-run media and online chat rooms after the pathogen escaped from the ministry of propaganda.
Cliches such as “better to be dead than anti-red” spring to mind in this highly-contagious form of crude nationalism, fuelled by President Xi Jinping’s assertive “Wolf Warrior” domestic policy.
“An anxious world has long worried that rising nationalism might one day lead ordinary Chinese – especially the young – to outbursts of uncontrollable rage. If recent months are any guide, outsiders missed a more insidious threat: that anti-foreign paranoia would become a nasty but profitable game,” The Economist reported at the weekend.
“These are frightening times for Chinese civil-society activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private businesses that see their role as building bridges between China and other countries,” the media group said.
Myths and misdemeanors:
- The ruling Communist Party has always had a deep suspicion towards the outside world.
- Paranoia is part of the CCP’s DNA.
- A massive state-media machine is used to drip-feed that fear to the general population.
- Nationalist bloggers supported and controlled by the Party also wage a consistent propaganda war.
- They are backed up by an army of online trolls ready to praise Beijing and pulverize critics.
- Key targets are Hong Kong, Taiwan and developed democracies.
Delve deeper: Yet, nowhere is this more virulent than in China’s “zero-Covid policy.” Effectively, the borders have been closed for the past two years since the Covid-19 first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan before infecting the rest of the world.
Howling wolf warriors: “Public opinion in the West has been questioning China’s dynamic zero-case policy yet again … The Eurasia Group claims that the top risk in 2022 would be ‘the failure of China’s zero-Covid policy,’” state-controlled Global Times said.
Take no prisoners: “We can see an absurd scene: a group of deserters fleeing the battlefield, stabbing their comrades in the back who are still holding on in the fight,” it stated in an editorial on Monday.
Big picture: Still, the true cost of China’s battle against Covid-19 could be underpinned by a lie. Numbers that many believe simply do not add up. So far, the country of nearly 1.4 billion people has reported just 103,776 cases and only 4,363 deaths.
Dodgy data: “Why are #China’s public #Covid_19 numbers so universally accepted as accurate? To make that argument is to believe that economic numbers get massaged when the political narrative dictates, but highly sensitive health figures remain a bastion of apolitical precision,” China Beige Book, the research company, tweeted last week.
Global view: The Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, has warned of the challenges China faces in the next 12 months. President Xi’s “zero-Covid policy” was high on that list.
Risk factor: The initial success of zero Covid and Xi’s personal attachment to it makes it impossible to change course. China’s policy will fail to contain infections, leading to larger outbreaks, requiring in turn more severe lockdowns,” the Eurasia Group said in a report earlier this month.
Economic stress: “This will, in turn, lead to greater economic disruptions, more state intervention, and a more dissatisfied population at odds with the triumphalist ‘China defeated Covid’ mantra of the state-run media,” the risk consultancy pointed out.
China Factor comment: Up to 13 million residents in Xi’an have been in lockdown for weeks amid city-wide anger. The more infectious Omicron variant has even been detected in Tianjin, which has a population of nearly 15 million. It comes at a time when research data has called into question the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines.