The COVID-19 pandemic not only unleashed a virus into the world, but also the extensive propaganda system of the Chinese communist government. In June, the European Commission noted that China was behind a massive COVID-19 disinformation campaign across Europe. This was the first time that the organization publicly named China for spreading disinformation.
The disinformation campaign
“I believe if we have evidence we should not shy away from naming and shaming… What we also witnessed is a surge in narratives undermining our democracies and in effect our response to the crisis, for example, the claim there are secret U.S. biological laboratories on former Soviet republics has been spread by both pro-Kremlin outlets, as well as Chinese officials and state media… I strongly believe that a geopolitically strong EU can only materialize if we are assertive,” stated Vera Jourova, a European commission vice-president, as reported by The Guardian.
Politicians from France were said to be outraged when a website belonging to a Chinese embassy started peddling fake news that European care workers had abandoned their jobs and left the sick patients to die. A Chinese diplomat also accused 80 French lawmakers of using racist slurs against the head of WHO, something that never happened.
June’s strong response to China marked a significant shift in the EU’s handling of the communist nation. Earlier, the organization had largely remained subdued when responding to matters linked to China. In April, there were even accusations that the EU watered down a report on Chinese disinformation on COVID-19.
However, the EU seems to have realized that you cannot deal with China the way you deal with other countries. Beijing will try to wriggle themselves in and gain power in Europe by whatever means necessary. The only way to stop this would be to strongly assert the unity of Europe and call out the Chinese government on its immoral acts.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s Foreign Policy chief, has asked European nations to present a united front against China. When Beijing recently threatened a Czech leader that he will pay a “heavy price” for his visit to Taiwan, German minister Heiko Maas reminded the Chinese regime that Europe is not to be threatened. A spokesperson from the French foreign ministry asserted that “any threat to the EU’s member state is unacceptable.”
The rising tensions between the EU and China do not bode well for businesses on either side. A recent report by the European Chamber of Commerce in China, which drew on a survey of over 1,700 members, noted that many European companies believe that they could be arbitrarily punished by the Chinese government for the actions committed by their home governments against China. The report points out that the travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese regime had left employees of European firms stranded outside China and that Chinese officials constantly ignored the discrimination faced by foreigners.
The second wave
As far as the spread of COVID-19 is concerned, Europe is said to be experiencing a second wave of the pandemic. Southeast European nations like Romania, Albania, Montenegro, and Bulgaria are seeing a far higher number of infections in August. France recorded more than 8,900 cases on September 4, the highest to date. On September 6, the UK recorded 2,000 infections per day.
Countries in Central Europe had fared better than Western Europe when the outbreak initially began to spread. But during the second wave, these nations are reportedly getting hard hit. The Czech Republic recently passed 1,000 cases per day for the first time. The rate of infections picked up in Poland in August. Some experts point out that the higher number of cases might partly be due to the fact that European nations are conducting more tests.