When the European Union was preparing a report on government disinformation about the Coronavirus, Chinese officials went ballistic, demanding that the report be altered or cancelled.
The EU caved.
The original report stated, “China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image. Both overt and covert tactics have been observed,” The New York Times reported.
However, it didn’t take long for Chinese officials to complain bitterly to European Union officials in Beijing.
In an internal email, Esther Osorio, communications adviser to the EUs leading diplomat Josep Borrell, ordered the report be held, the Times reported, and emailed, “We already see heavy pushback from CN,” an abbreviation for China.
Internal analysts at the EU like Monika Richter were angered.
She wrote in an email, “Such appeasement will set a terrible precedent and encourage similar coercion in the future,” and accused EU diplomats of “self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party.”
The report was released, but downplayed any mention of state-sponsored disinformation. In the report, any mention of China was bundled into a section entitled, “Other selected activities that are reported” and softened considerably.
For example, the report now merely states, “Chinese officials and state media try to curtail any mentions of Wuhan as the origin of COVID-19, with new domestic restrictions on publishing COVID-19 related research in China.”
Chinese diplomat Zhang Ming told the Financial Times, “We do better to forget the politics now.”
The Chinese, the Times noted, are even pushing a bogus theory that the coronavirus was brought to China by members of the US military who were in Wuhan in October.
Julian B. Gewirtz of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, told the Times, “The conspiracy theories are a new, low front in what they clearly perceive as a global competition over the narrative of this crisis. This small cadre of high-volume Chinese officials don’t seem to realize that peddling conspiracy theories is totally self-defeating for China, at a moment when it wants to be seen as a positive contributor around the world.”