Conspiracy theorists look forward to world events, put their spin on it, masterfully and painstakingly, combine unrelated events to sew up theories that support their worldview. And in a world not lacking disasters and controversies, it’s the golden age of conspiracy theorists, from 9/11 to COVID-19.
The conspiracy theorists are not short of audience, especially in PNG. There is an abundant supply of hungry but ill-informed, non-critical population who would share conspiracy contents to on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. The Coronavirus, which started in Wuhan, in China, in December 2019, has become another conspiracy theorists’ paradise. Some argue that the United States invented the virus and infected Wuhan with the sole purpose of destroying China. Others claim that China invented the virus to destroy US and basically any other country in the world with the exception of Russia and North Korea. In this article I attempt to debunk some of these conspiracies on both sides.
There are two parts: part one debunks the conspiracy that Chinese created the virus for political and economic gains. Part two will come later, debunking conspiracy that US created the virus to destroy Chinese economy.
Part ONE: China invents the virus to destroy the West and US
This conspiracy is almost convincing. The questions the anti-Chinese conspiracy theorists would ask to confuse you would go like this:
1. How is it possible that COVID-19 did not spread to Beijing, Shanghai, and more important Chinese cities that act as commercial hubs, administrative units and political centers?
2. How is it that it spread to rest of the world, but Chinese stunt allies like Russia and North Korea were preserved?
3. Why did the virus break out at the time Hong Kong protests were at their peak?
4. How is it possible that whilst all the world is struggling to control the virus, China is proceeding to close down isolation centers and hospitals?
They ask these questions to plant doubt in the minds of their readers, and then advance their ultimate goal of misleading unsuspecting readers. It would go something like this:
China invented the virus for three purposes. First, it was invented to create panic and stop Hong Kong protests, which may have led to destabilising the Chinese Communist Party’s rule. They point to the timing of the outbreak to substantiate their claims. Some even claim that China developed the virus to spread it among the Hong Kong protesters, to kill them.
The second reason, they claim, is that the Chinese developed the virus in a laboratory, created vaccines, budgeted funds and identified areas to build hospitals, got the necessarily materials and equipment ready, and then released hell upon Wuhan. This explains the fast response the world witnessed when China rapidly built hospitals. It also explains the effective containment. It was preplanned and well executed. And when the world went into panic, and lock down, with the economy spiraling out of control, China emerged as the greatest winner, buying shares and companies at a cheaper prices.
Third, related to second one, but more political. China intends to destroy US hegemony (US superpower status) and be the world leader. They point to the fact that Chinese allies like Russia and North Korea are not being hit hard by COVID-19, as a reason to say China has strategically targeted the West. For supporting arguments they point to the ability of Chinese government’s control of the virus to say it was all pre-planned, and then executed.
Debunking Conspiracy One: Virus Created to Stop Protests in Hong Kong
The outbreak of COVID-19 did bring the ongoing protests in Hong Kong against their government who were sympathetic to mainland Communist government to an end. The streets were empty. The streets remain empty now. COVID-19 ended the protests in ways that both Chinese and Hong Kong authorities would not have imagined possible. But does that imply COVID-19 is a biological weapon designed to end the protests? Why was there a outbreak at the peak of the protest?
The answer is simple. It was a coincidence. Nothing else. COVID-19 outbreak happened by chance. Why do I say this? Because China is a hotspot of COVID-like viruses. Viruses break out in China all the time. It breaks out in times of peace. See the list below:
Asian Flu (1956) started in China, and killed killed 1-4 million people;
SARS started in China (2002), and killed 774 people;
H7N9 started in China (2012), killed 1223;
COVID-2019 started in China, killed 22, 000 and counting.
Most of these diseases are said to have come from Chinese obsessions with diets that involve bats, rats, snakes, etc. Unless China bans these sources of diet, new diseases will continue to come out of China.
Why didn’t COVID-19 wreck Chinese allies North Korea and Russia? These conspiracy theorists argue that North Korea and Russia are not reporting huge COVID-19 cases like those in South Korea, Italy, Spain, and the US because China strategically prevented the spread of COVID-19 to these countries. Russia shut down flights from China in January 2020 after the outbreak in December 2019, and minimized the number of infected persons as a result. It then proceeded to isolate, quarantine, and monitor until it subsided. North Korea is a country with very limited access. So there is no knowing how many cases there are in North Korea. We will never know. That does not equate to absence of COVID-19.
Debunking Conspiracy Two: Virus Created to Wreck World Economy (US and the West)?
For those who have read basic Chinese economic history, China’s exponential economic growth in the last 30 years, GDP growing at 10% from 1978 to 2005, would not have been possible without integrating into world economy. China joined GATT (predecessor to WTO) in 1948 and WTO in 2001. WTO has 164 members – so China had/has access to 164 countries. That’s 162 economies with billions of people. China relies on international trade. If the European Union market collapses, if the US economy collapses, if the 162 economies collapses, the Chinese economy will collapse. It’s a massive economy that relies on world trade.
It is unthinkable that China would intentionally plan the collapse of the world economy just to get ahead. Get ahead and then what? When demand for Chinese products drop across the world due to COVID-19 impact on world economy, so does the demand on Chinese products.
There are also claims that China is buying shares and companies of the West and US. There is no statistics/evidence that this is the case. If anything, smart businessman and women are buying shares in companies, not only Chinese. The Warren Buffets, the George Soros, the Charlie Mungers of the world are buying. Not necessarily Chinese.
Debunking Conspiracy Three: Does China seeks to break US hegemony, and lead the world?
Why was China so fast in bringing the virus under control? China, North Korea, and to some extent, Russia, can do things with such speed that is not possible anywhere else. The reason is because these countries (with a possible exception of Russia) are still very much authoritarian. They can shut down roads, place restrictions, allocate funds, and execute the will of the state with less resistance from the population. The communist government in China shut down Wuhan without any resistance. North Korea can do it without resistance. The oligarchy in Russia can do it with relative ease. That is the reason why China got what it wanted, when it wanted. Allocated state resources to building temporary hospitals, isolation stations, and manufacturing and sourcing test equipment. China was able to strictly lockdown Wuhan.
Countries in the West cannot do that. The checks and balances mean that the executive is restrained in its ability to make decisions. Lock down in Italy required parliament’s approval (both sides of the house). PNG needed a state of emergency, but even parliament has to be called to enact an Act to make the SOE valid. That is why Belden Namah questioned its constitutionality. In the US, the President can make the decisions, the senate and House make theirs, and you need a consensus. This may delay response, but it ensures that even crisis does not translate into authoritarian rule by the prime minister or president.
Why did the virus spread abroad? Well, those foreigner who were in Wuhan flew out to their countries, taking the virus with them. That is a no brainer. It has nothing to do with Chinese strategy of spreading the virus everywhere except Beijing and Shanghai.
We need a critical generation in PNG. Ones that question information, seek validity of sources, be active consumers of information.
You are invited to be critical of this piece. I will be disappointed if you read this article without being critical, saying yes and amen to my arguments. You are not supposed to do that. BE INDEPENDENT. But be logical, and present evidence for your claims.
Parts Two of the article, we will look at the conspiracy from anti-Americans: Did Americans create the virus to destroy China?
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