Giant screens with messages of encouragement, presidential appearances broadcast on television, attacks on the United States, media censorship and purges of officials: against the new outbreak of the coronavirus, the Chinese regime is committed to the old propaganda to win the battle of public opinion .
Since an unusual storm of criticism broke out over the management of the epidemic, particularly after the death of Dr. Li Wenliang last week, the first to raise the alarm and later be reprimanded for “spreading rumors,” the Chinese government has intensified its Messages to alleviate discontent.
Li was acclaimed as a hero in Chinese social networks, whose outrage ran wildly arousing a renewed impulse for freedom of expression: “Something historic has happened in China. There is a hero who died in silence with a noble epitaph built by tears and the anger of millions of people, “says a citizen who prefers to remain anonymous.
He says, “There are millions of people awake but silenced in China, who dry their tears and keep fighting, from the old unemployed man who gave up his savings to help the truck driver who drove for two days to deliver instant noodle packages to the first line of the epidemic, “he says.
“It’s not just figures, it’s people of flesh and blood who are suffering this hell,” adds this critical citizen with power.
The authorities removed these types of comments on the Internet.
XI REAPPEARS BEFORE THE CAMERAS
A few days after the reproaches erupted, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, reappeared before the public – wearing a mask and surrounded by cameras – when visiting a community of neighbors and a Beijing hospital to, according to official media, proclaim himself “commander in the struggle of the Chinese people against the coronavirus. “
And is that the presence of propaganda is omnipresent throughout the country and is attested in its streets: “Prevention and control of the epidemic are everyone’s responsibility,” reads a banner hanging at the entrance of one of the tourist areas Beijing’s most popular, now completely empty, while in a busy shopping plaza a huge projection proclaims: “Cheer up, China!”.
Meanwhile, purges in the province of Hubei, epicenter of the outbreak.
The secretary of the Communist Party of China (CCP) in Hubei was replaced today by Ying Yong, until now mayor of Shanghai and related to Xi, while two senior officials of the provincial Health Commission have been replaced by the deputy director of the Commission National Health, Wang Hesheng, who is part of the committee formed by the central government to deal with the epidemic.
The reason? Some experts believe that the CCP intends to calm down the spirits so that emotions do not overflow, and remember that Xi himself already warned that he should “guide” public opinion and strengthen informational control: the next step is to convince that “The economy will not suffer” from the crisis.
THE MACHINERY REAGENT PARTY
“More Chinese have complained about the way the coronavirus crisis has been managed, but the political consequences will be limited,” the director of the Department of Political Science at the Baptist University of Hong Kong, Jean-Pierre Cabestan, tells Efe.
According to the professor, the death of Dr. Li has caused a telluric movement on a social level, but it remains to be seen.
“The Chinese government is not going to change. The management of this crisis has been compared with that of the nuclear catastrophe at the Chernobyl plant in 1986. The problem is that Xi Jinping is not Mikhail Gorbachev (Pereistroika’s father and last leader of the Soviet Union), is rather a Leonid Brezhnev (representative of the hard wing of Soviet communism), “argues the academic.
Hence, “Xi has moved piece to ensure public support and calm the crisis,” says Cabestan, who highlights the fact that an investigation team has been sent to investigate the death of Dr. Li or that the CCP has criticized to anyone who “wants to use his death to blame the regime.”
“The CCP has reactivated its propaganda machinery. Xi wants to use the crisis to consolidate its legitimacy and that of the regime, as well as keep critics weak and silenced,” he adds.
The construction of a hospital in just ten days or the dispatch of 4,000 military doctors to combat the outbreak also resonate in the official media, a key piece in government propaganda.
In Wuhan, capital of Hubei, the state press offers its witness to the international, which has limited access to the city: “The Central Department of Propaganda of the CCP has sent 300 journalists there to generate positive publicity,” Efe said analyst Joseph Cheng, coordinator of prodemocratic groups in Hong Kong.
According to Cheng, the priority of the authorities is to survive: “Xi wants to maintain his power and prestige, prove that he is in command. But, above all, he wants to avoid blame,” he says.
THE ENEMIES, ABROAD
Finding an external enemy to blame when things go wrong is another of the tactics used by the official media, which devotes numerous editorials to the United States these days, accused of not helping and of applying “destructive policies” while China fights the virus, something “immoral,” according to the Global Times newspaper.
Moreover, according to this newspaper, the West is showing a “vindictive, anxious” mentality by starting a “large-scale propaganda war against China”, “creating panic” and “demonizing the Chinese”, when in reality the efforts of the Asian country “deserve respect and appreciation”.
Efforts that not only reflect China’s “high sense of responsibility for the life and health of its people,” but also its determination to stop a disease that keeps the country in check, preaches one of its latest editorials.