Consistent Criticism of China’s Dynamic Zero Policy by Western Media Misses Mark

The authorities and the citizenry remain resolute that local and national policies are imperfect, but effective.

Criticism of China in the U.S. mainstream media is a bit like brushing one’s teeth: It happens every day. However, unlike the daily ritual of teeth brushing, the chronic negativity about China serves no positive purpose.

Though no Western news organization will come right out and say it, there really is no other way to describe their recent coverage of the rise in coronavirus cases throughout China than this: They are reveling in it.

After claiming that Chinese officials were “lying” about the actual number of COVID cases in China throughout most of 2020 and all of 2021, these supposedly objective reporters now appear far too eager to examine the situation in China and suggest there is no way to hide the bad news. Ironically, and we will return to this point later, at no point were Chinese officials attempting to hide the severity of COVID from the Chinese people.

Consider just a few recent examples of this negative attitude toward China’s efforts at containing the COVID pandemic. On April 6, The Washington Post’s editorial board argued that “China’s leadership has bragged to anyone who would listen that its authoritarian system did a better job of fighting the pandemic than the undisciplined and chaotic democracies. … But now, China’s dictatorship is on the ropes in its battle with the virus.”

The New York Post claimed that “some 26 million people [in Shanghai] anguish in their apartments, staring at their now-empty refrigerators, unable to set foot outside to forage for food for fear of arrest and incarceration. … China has unleashed yet another COVID Horror Show on its population.”

Finally, the Associated Press asserted that “a series of deaths at a hospital for elderly patients in Shanghai is underscoring the dangerous consequences of China’s stubborn pursuit of a zero-COVID approach amid an escalating outbreak in the city of 26 million people.”

A staff member disinfects the construction site of a temporary hospital at the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai) in east China’s Shanghai, Apr. 8, 2022. (Photo/Xinhua)

“On the ropes.”

“Another COVID Horror Show.”

“Stubborn pursuit of a zero-COVID approach.”

Reading those words, one would conclude that China is falling apart and civil society is on the verge of collapse. You and I know such allegations are blatantly false and part of a systematic effort to embarrass China on the global stage. Missing from many of the stories is a grim reality: There are only slightly more daily cases in China now than there are in the U.S.

On April 10, CGTN reported the following: “The Chinese mainland recorded 1,351 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with 1,318 linked to local transmissions and 33 from overseas, according to data from the National Health Commission on Sunday. A total of 25,111 new asymptomatic cases were also recorded on Saturday, and 195,948 asymptomatic patients remain under medical observation. Confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland now total 164,393, with the death toll at 4,638.”

And what about the U.S.? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 28,169 total new coronavirus cases and 516 people had died from the virus on that same day. The total figures in the U.S.: 80,191,020 total diagnosed cases and 982,663 deaths.

I recognize some people might find it crass to repeat the numbers, but it is necessary so that there is clarity. There have been roughly 165,000 total confirmed COVID cases in China and roughly 82 million such cases in the U.S. Fewer than 5,000 Chinese people have died from the virus while over 1 million Americans have died.

Remind me again, in which nation is a “Covid Horror Show” evident?

White flags to honor the lives lost to COVID-19 are seen on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Sept. 16, 2021. (Photo/Xinhua)

Next, we must acknowledge that Chinese leaders, unlike many of their counterparts in the United States, have never suggested the virus “was like the flu” and never told the Chinese people to carry on as if nothing was going on around them. Rather, the leadership has remained vigilant in delivering the message that the virus was deadly and that the country had to place public health ahead of the wants of any one individual.

And, yes, that vigilance includes the affirmation that the “dynamic zero” policy continues to exist inside China. The policy includes mass testing, limitations on domestic and especially international travel, lockdowns in the cities where outbreaks occur, and deep cleaning/disinfecting.

No Chinese official ever claimed the policy was perfect and that China would never experience outbreaks of the virus. We also should not forget that Chinese officials who fail to keep the population safe are held to account; just the other day, three such officials in Shanghai were dismissed after their poor handling of the crisis led to a “serious impact” on controlling the spread of the virus.

We must put the facts on the table: Yes, total cases in China are rising as a wave of Omicron variant hits a number of Chinese cities, and, yes, Chinese officials are concerned. The authorities and the citizenry remain resolute that local and national policies are imperfect, but effective.

Put all of that together and we reach one conclusion: There is no “horror show.”


The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.