Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Praise of Italy’s Measures Sharp Contrast to Criticism of China
By Sun Keqin
Global Times
2020/2/26 23:41:53

Tourists wearing masks are seen in Venice, Italy, February 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)

A female community worker (left) and her colleague learn about residents' situation in Caidian district of Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Central China's Hubei Province, February 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Cheng Min)

Following China's lead, Italy has implemented tough measures to contain the spreading of the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19), including locking down some towns. Yet it's disconcerting to see how some Western media outlets take very different views of the two countries' similar methods; they fully support Italy's countermeasures, but continue to slam China for doing the same thing. This is another example of the West's double standard and prejudice against China.

As of Tuesday, the death toll of the coronavirus epidemic in Italy reached 11. With more than 320 cases now confirmed, Italy has become the worst-hit European country.

Rome has taken a series of rational measures to handle the spiraling number of confirmed cases. Italian authorities on Sunday locked down the worst-impacted towns and prohibited public events in much of the country's northern part. The governments of Lombardy and Veneto announced schools and universities would be closed for at least one weak. Museums and cinemas have been closed and the last two days of the Venice Carnival have been canceled, the New York Times reported.

Italy has a wealth of experience combating epidemics dating back to the Middle Ages when the Black Plague swept over Europe. Even then quarantines were an effective method to stop the spread of plagues. Given the fast spread and unpredictable nature of the coronavirus, the Italian government's measures are proper and in accordance with recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Italy is a European power famous for its cultural attractions. The daily flow of people between Italy and other EU countries is considerable. As a member of the Schengen countries - comprising of 26 countries with open borders - the outbreak in Italy will dramatically pressure the EU and some member states - especially Austria and France which share borders with Italy - to attach great importance to the outbreak in Italy and collaborate on necessary next steps.

When the Chinese government announced the decision to lock down Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, some Western media outlets led by those in the US lashed out at China, but when Italy imposed the same measures, mainstream Western media outlets expressed understanding and support, creating a double standard that we in China see all too often.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, some Western media outlets have used the disease to smear China. The German magazine Der Spiegel on February 1 ran the headline "Coronavirus made in China" on its front page. Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published an insulting cartoon that replaced the five stars on the Chinese national flag with images of coronavirus cells. The Wall Street Journal ran a commentary under the headline "China is the Real Sick Man of Asia."

These examples signal their strong racist sentiment. These media outlets, which are immorally politicizing the outbreak, slam China's action in sealing off Wuhan as a violation of "human rights," and have the temerity to suggest the "increasingly authoritarian China bungled the coronavirus outbreak." These media outlets appear to be using the outbreak as a pretext for political hype and has in turn incited racial discrimination against Chinese people.

Yet it is pleasing to hear many other voices around the world that support China. To date, leaders from over 170 countries and regions and more than 40 international and regional organizations have expressed sympathy and support for China.

At the Munich Security Conference, held from February 14 to 16, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised China and decried unwarranted criticism. "Now is not the time for recrimination or politicization," said Ghebreyesus as he called on "all governments, companies and news organizations to work with us to sound the appropriate level of alarm, without fanning the flames of hysteria."

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has severely challenged not only China, but also the rest of world. The international community should promote cooperation and join hands to tackle the outbreak.  It should offer greater understanding and support to China and all other countries and regions suffering from the disease. Smearing China, politicizing the virus, and preaching racism do nothing to contain the coronavirus.

The author is a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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