China has no reason to be happy about the way the media outlets around the world, especially the ones in the West, are focussing on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Major newspapers, web portals and television channels, if we call them global, are covering it extensively and continuously, as a matter of right, choice, competition, compulsion or even pre-fixed notion of China.
Compulsive focus on coronavirus by no means is coverage of risk of infection. In addition to panic it has created Sinophobia in at least three continents. Beijing may raise question about justification or fairness of fixing the media's eyes on Wuhan virus and role of China in fighting it. Western journalists have commonly alleged that China fears free flow of information.
China cannot deny either death of more than 2,500 people and cases of infections exceeding 80,000 since its outbreak in December 2019. Still, the death toll is far below the casualties in wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan where Western powers are engaged or the number of Palestinians killed by Israel alone since 1948.
Failing to report wholesale flimsy excuse for invading Iraq in 2003 or to predict Donald Trump's victory in 2016, the Western media did not perhaps get enough scope of doing soul-searching for their coronavirus coverage. But, non-Western media outlets, too, followed suit, widely reporting minor details of the virus. The news item that it would take 18 months to develop vaccine for protection from coronavirus has proved frustrating.
Where it has originated from and whether China or the US has made experiments with it at lab are all questions and conspiracy theories. Yet, the very coverage of this issue has left obvious results: Exports and imports to and from China have fallen, economic challenges have grown for most China-connected countries and China's global leadership, especially its Belt and Road Initiative, has come under serious questions.
The rivals that could not stop China's rise as an economic powerhouse, have now found the occasion to dissociate China physically from trading partners, without making any call for boycotting it. The opium war of the 18th century has been replaced by the 21st century's propaganda campaign!
Opposing Western hegemony and often hostile to regional powers, the minnows in Asia, Africa and Latin America that did not say a single critical word about their money-lender-cum-new-weather-friend in the East, are powerless to help China revive its image. They are rather reviewing future strategic relations with China, in terms of trade and investment.
Suggestions have already been made for Bangladesh to find alternative to imports from China although Dhaka stood by Beijing by extending moral support during this crisis. Bangladesh has earlier failed to secure Chinese blessing when Myanmar persecuted and forced Rohingya Muslims to flee to Cox's Bazar.
No nation has formally blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak. The coronavirus crisis has exposed that Beijing, which might have banked on money and military strength for exerting influence internationally, has not been able to make many genuine friends. China's rising military and financial might could not save it from being stigmatised on the grounds of something which is not a visible thing -- Coronavirus.
While too many reports showing every update on the coronavirus death toll and cases of infection have caused disturbing feelings among readers and viewers, they might also have been unsympathetic to China to some extent. Quarantining of people in Wuhan and some other cities and treatment of the whistleblower physician have been negatively highlighted in the media, including the social media.
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