As Covid-19 continues to cut a grim path across the globe, debates continue to rage about who is to blame. In one of his many moves to shift accountability for his own inept response to the crisis, US president Donald Trump said he would place a hold on funding for the World Health Organization, alleging that the agency “willingly took China’s assurances to face value” and “pushed China’s misinformation.”
But the truth is that everyone—the US government, the WHO, journalists, public health officials, and others—should have known better than to trust Beijing’s claims, whether in its initial dismissal of the possibility of human-to-human transmission, or in its current reports of infection and death-toll numbers. In China’s one-party authoritarian system, officials suppressing information and manipulating data for propaganda or career advancement is nothing new, and likely won’t change any time soon.
The Chinese government’s consistent record of censorship and manipulation of information during public health crises is in the public domain. It’s well documented. We would do well to look beyond the official Chinese numbers, rely on the information we can trust, and focus on what’s most important: containing and eradicating the deadly global pandemic.
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