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China does it again
  • China's leader Xi Jinping
    China's leader Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping, through his favourite mouthpiece Liljian Zhao, does it again. China is in fact trying to manipulate the results of a research, led by Professor Giovanni Apolone, conducted at the National Institute of Cancer in Milan. The research investigated the possible presence of Covid in Lombardy in the final months of 2019. A fact that almost all scholars give for granted but that in no way attributes to Italy the "responsibility" of having given birth to the epidemic. And indeed it does not exclude the hypothesis that given the great trade ties between China (and in particular Wuhan) and Italy, it was precisely the silence of the Beijing authorities that contributed to spread the virus in Europe many months before the epidemic became full-blown in the Hubei region. However, the Chinese deputy Foreign Minister Zhao Liljian, well known to have spread for years state-sponsored propaganda about Uighurs, immediately pointed out: "The virus is a complex issue that could involve several countries" trying to pass the message that the virus might have originated in Italy and quoting professor Apolone words out of context. His version immediately challenged by Professor Apolone himself who declared in an interview: “We know that China has delayed the announcement of the COVID outbreak, so it is not known when it started there, and China has very strong trade ties with northern Italy". But the damage was done and the Chinese propaganda media machine was set in motion. The news was released by the Xinhua news agency and extensively commented on the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong while on social media was circulating a note saying: “The analysis of Italian wastewater had shown the presence of the coronavirus in Milan and Turin, suggesting that the original source of the new coronavirus was not China. China did not have any epidemics until January 2020 while Italy detected the presence of the virus as early as the beginning of December. It is not only Italy but also Spain and France. The time they detected the coronavirus in the sewage is before the time they had the first coronavirus patient in their country and that explains a lot of problems”. This is the second time time China pushes its own narrative and its propaganda lies about Italy. First they tried to blame the United States, denouncing without any evidence that American troops would have brought the virus to China during sporting events held in Wuhan. Then has been the turn of Spain and, before Spain, of Italy. In April in fact the Chinese state-run paper Global Times quoted Italian nephrologist Giuseppe Remuzzi as saying the virus might have originated in Italy. Remuzzi later said his words—that a ‘strange’ pneumonia had been noticed around late November in Italy—had been distorted for propaganda purposes. In November, China already knew about the Covid-19 virus, but the country was busy pretending everything was normal, even as it silenced doctors and journalists and sent thousands of tourists and business people to Italy. Given the strong presence of chinese and the even stronger commercial ties China has with industries in Lombardia, the Italian study is rather a proof that the virus, imported from China, began to circulate silently in Italy months before its presence in Wuhan was reported. And while the virus was circulating, China pushed the WHO to lie on her behalf and some politician in Italy to bake a campaign called 'hug a chinese'. In between, there's been another kind of disgusting propaganda. It started in March when Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio was sharing enthusiastic posts on his Facebook page of Chinese doctors and medical supplies arriving in the country and Liljian Zhao shared a video on Twitter with the hashtag #grazieCina showing ‘Italians’ allegedly thanking China for their help, with the Chinese anthem playing in the background. Interestingly, the same clips have been shared with the Pakistani national anthem playing in the background and the hashtag #graziePakistan. According to social data intelligence analysis by Alkemy SpA’s R&D lab, in collaboration with Deweave, Luiss Data Lab and Catchy, almost half of all Twitter posts with the hashtag #forzaCinaeItalia, and published between 11 March and 23 March, were generated by bots. The findings were similar for tweets with the #grazieCina hashtag; 37.1 percent of the tweets were produced by bots. Later, another kind of strategy started. Beijing now appears to be exploiting the economic disaster Italy is facing because of the chinese virus by buying Italian companies in need. The Chinese strategy started long ago, and is now paying dividends. It started with commercial deals, with a strong presence of economic migrants, then went on to build public opinion through sway over politicians, opinion makers, journalists and think-tanks. The number of Italian companies purchased by Chinese entities has grown over twenty times in the past ten years. Italy, before COVID-19, was the fifth largest destination in terms of number of investments from China. The percentage is now likely to increase. Truth is, Xi Jinping is desperate to clean the country's image and to find an escape goat for the only country whoì's actually gaining from COVID: China.
Francesca Marino