An insurance policy saved China from world retaliation in 2020. Will it expire in 2021?

Chinese PLA soldiers came in large numbers towards Indian positions soon after the start of the pandemic. They stepped into disputed areas, picked up fights, and instigated India to war. Pic source: Newsroom Post

China let a devastating virus out into the world in 2020. You can explain the event whichever way you like — it came naturally from a wild animals market, it was a lab leak; They sent it out either in panic or on purpose. Whichever way you want to explain it, we cannot deny one thing: The culpability of the CCP and China in covering up the outbreak, then letting it out, and then again covering up the origins without proper investigation.

If only this virus had come out of India, and the same pandemic had happened crippling the world, the international response would have been very different. Nations would have called India out as culpable, a careless culprit, or incapable at the very least. And we would have liberally labelled the virus the “Indian Coronavirus”. Indians would have endured hate, racism, and xenophobia at unprecedented levels. The same would have also happened if it had come out of Trump’s US or Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

But China has gotten away with the death of millions around the world. The destruction of the world economy is in trillions of dollars. And no mainstream media names Xi Jinping as culpable for this pandemic. It is the local leaders of democracies, especially if they are right wing, who are accountable for a Covid wave and disaster in any country. The media never calls it as “Chinese Virus” or even “Wuhan Virus”, yet all the variants of it named after the country of origin.

I remember that earlier in 2020, almost all mainstream news outlets called it the Chinese Virus or China Flu. But after a simple protest from China and instruction by its WHO, the media abruptly stopped calling it Chinese Coronavirus, saying it is racist. And they even called out anyone who used these terms as racist and xenophobic. The same media now liberally call it the Brazil variant and even as the ‘Indian Virus’ variant.

How mainstream media were using the term “Chinese Coronavirus” before China’s dictum changed it overnight. And news organizations like Reuters reported that such terms led to anti-Chinese sentiments then. But now seems to justify the use of the term ‘Indian Variant’. Even though it has led to racism against Indians.

News outlets like Reuters even justify their use of Indian or Brazilian names by deflecting blame on supposed mismanagement of the pandemic by Indian or Brazilian govt, when they request such names not be used. It is quite shameful they never call out China, the Chinese dictatorship, or Xi Jinping ever for mismanagement, coverup, and the crisis the world over when China protested the use of such names. Instead, they comply immediately and in fact act as propaganda agents for the CCP.

China has successfully done something here to influence and even control the world media’s narrative. If they claim themselves to be a superpower, which they are not yet, they definitely are the superpower right now in control of information and international organizations. Something that was the bastion of the west — especially the US, UK, and some allies. I admire China for their systematic infiltration and influence operations around the world. And they did this right under the noses of powerful western nations.

Chinese Infiltration & Influence

How has China done this? They seem to use a simple carrot and stick approach: Incentivize friendly behavior towards China, rewarding those who protect and propagate China’s interests handsomely. But punish those who are acting against China’s interests. They figured out something about all democracies — that some corrupt crony elites run the show. The governments and politicians are just puppets to some of these unprincipled elites.

The elites who are hungry for power, profit, and in preserving their prestige do not have any principles of their own. But they hijack lofty leftist ideals. They propagate them in universities and institutions they own and sponsor. They convert the young into idealistic left with an utopian vision for the world. And brainwash them and use them like sheep to achieve their objectives in an unjust world they run. The people fed propaganda are used to take down strong nationalist leaders and governments who work for their country’s interests and not for the elites.

China figured out that if they can control the elite in these countries, say a rich CEO’s interests using his company’s financial interests in China, they can control the narrative on China on a media empire he also runs. If they can also sponsor his media directly in millions of dollars through ads, then that’s a force multiplier for their propaganda.

Well, this is not rocket science China figured out. It is just common sense to know we can manipulate interests and incentives for gain. It’s Freakonomics. But we are all led to believe that ‘Democracy dies in Darkness’ and an impartial media is throwing the light to dispel such darkness. What these media companies never tell you is they tint their light Chinese red. Making it all look rosy on China when you read their papers in white.

Such infiltration into world media using their agents of influence and incentivized companies is how China controls the narrative on itself. Getting away with even what is being called as a genocide by the US, UK, and EU. Such media infiltration is part of the insurance policy China took as early as 2019 to prevent world retaliation against them for this pandemic. As an article from The New York Times nicely captions, when Covid hit, China was ready to tell its version of the story.

China has also infiltrated world organizations like the WHO and UN, influencing them. Hearsay is China always uses corruption with monetary and ‘other’ incentives to compromise individuals of influence in foreign governments and organizations. China’s influence on the WHO and UN has definitely come to the limelight after the pandemic.

The WHO and its chief ‘I am not a medical doctor, but China got me the job anyway’ Dr. Tedros have been acting and speaking like the Chinese foreign ministry. The UN too now seems heavily influenced by Chinese funding and agents. Such infiltration and influence of media, governments, and organizations around the world helped China against a world retaliation in diplomacy and media for this pandemic it exported.

Insurance Policy

In 2020, after the devastation of the pandemic hit countries in Europe and the US, China took an insurance policy. And that is the threat of a World War 3. China amassed troops on the border with India in their tens of thousands. And is sabre rattling with Taiwan, Japan, and in the South China sea.

China and the world know that the nationalist govt in India under Narendra Modi will go to a war over any humiliation by an adversary. China is constantly threatening that at the borders. And by doing so, it ensured as early as June 2020 that India amassed enough troops to increase the risk of war. Similarly, China’s constant threat of takeover of Taiwan means a big war with the powers involved. The world simply does not want such wars. Especially after this pandemic. That’s the insurance policy China took in 2020 especially with an unpredictable Trump administration in power.

Throughout 2020, war mongering has been constant right from Xi Jinping himself, to the PLA, and the discourse being set by China’s interests in the media. After Trump stepped out in January 2021, China relented at the Indian borders and backed off a bit to prevent inadvertent escalation it doesn’t want. But it is still holding on to its insurance policy keeping and forcing massive troops deployment on respective sides.

China is also threatening a Taiwan takeover anytime. While, in South China sea it has become increasingly aggressive with fellow SCS nations. All this point to China renewing and re-calibrating its insurance policy for 2021 as it still sees the new Biden administration and world retaliation as risks. While I would call China’s bluff, and confidently say the worst they fear is a war, even with Taiwan alone.

Wolf warrior war backfires

The blatant show of belligerence by China in 2020 with their boisterous agents outing themselves, nations have noted the level of Chinese infiltration and influence in world organizations. Governments and the people have also noted critically China’s bullying of its neighbors and trading partners alike.

Since most governments seem to work in the interests of their elites, people taking note makes it even more important in democracies. People are themselves demanding strong action on China to their leaders. And they are calling out media, elites, and politicians who seem to work on behalf of Chinese interests.

Given such public pressure, media narrative on China has at least bifurcated with one side becoming critical and rightly so. China’s atrocities against minorities, its land grabs, bullying are all being talked about openly by some media now. And it has forced even leftist governments influenced by elites controlled by China to act. Not to mention, right-wing nationalist governments are openly calling out and threatening retaliation on China.

This has put China in a tight spot for now. It is trying hard to strengthen its media control again, is busy ‘buying’ the support of smaller countries, bullying bigger countries and governments which do not comply, and is working hard to bring down larger adversarial right-wing governments around the world using local politics and other tactics using Covid as an excuse. The ruling party BJP in India, for example, has already experienced China’s wrath in many asymmetric ways after standing up to its bullying last year.

At the same time a threat of a world war remains as an insurance policy by China against any sort of retaliation by anyone — Either military, diplomatic or economic that can hurt China severely. But China’s singular administration fears nothing more than a war that will set it back decades, or worse, it may lose. Betraying its people’s confidence, exposing its superpower lies, and losing power over China itself.

By not giving it back to China militarily when it is the aggressor, many governments including India are making a mistake. They are not only incentivizing such behavior but also giving China the opportunity to wage a limited war of its choice to claim victory and consolidate power back home. So in 2021 it remains to be seen if any govt in this world can call China’s bluff on a war and take it to task.

A blogs a worldview at ablogs.medium.com