West's double standard on COVID-19 lockdown

CGTN| 2020-03-12 10:49:59|Editor: Wang Xiaoyu
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Editor's note: CGTN's First Voice provides instant commentary on breaking stories. The daily column clarifies emerging issues and better defines the news agenda, offering a Chinese perspective on the latest global events.

Against the surge in COVID-19 cases, Italian authorities decided to model China's Wuhan. On Monday, it announced to lock down the entire country with a population of 60 million people. "All the measures of the red zones are now extended to all of the national territory," Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at a press conference.

Strict quarantine is no strange thing in the anti-virus fight. What deserves attention is the West's contrasting responses to the socialist China and the capitalist Italy. "The sudden expansion of travel restrictions reflected the government's efforts to catch up to the spread of a virus that has consistently outpaced its efforts to contain it." This is how The New York Times (NYT) reported on Italy's lockdown.

However, when it comes to China, the same outlet commented as such: "Its (China's) campaign has come at great cost to people's livelihoods and personal liberties." In another article, the NYT asserted that China's "grid management system… divides the country into tiny sections and assigns people to watch over each, ensuring a tight grip over a large population."

The lockdown is an extreme measure that both China and Italy have adopted in the face of rising death tolls. But for NYT-represented Western media, how to report it depends on the political system of the country that issued the order – the lockdown as "necessary" in Italy, but the "suppression on freedom" in China.

For decades, such media outlets have been bragging about their role as a watchdog that is significant to a functioning democracy. But the reality is the opposite. Advocating objective and unbiased reporting, they are seizing every single opportunity, including the virus that has nothing to do with politics, to attack countries with different political systems from the West's.

China's unprecedented quarantine approach proved effective in stemming the spread of COVID-19. Chinese authorities at all levels are mobilized in this campaign, with Chinese President Xi Jinping paying his visit to the epicenter Wuhan this week. The country's endeavor is recognized and enthusiastically endorsed by the international organizations, and is partly why Italy decided to mirror China in this anti-virus fight.

Residents are issued "entrance cards" in residential compounds, Beijing, China. (Photo source: CGTN)

However, anything positive about China is always depicted as the other way round in the West. Such double standards are in the gene of Western media. These "democracy-fighters" have never appeared bored with using this same tactic in the reporting of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and other China-related topics.

For decades, the West has never ceased its efforts in establishing a "liberal" international order and "liberating" non-Western countries in this process. Since the Cold War, the West has been playing a dominating role on the global arena. Industrialization has won Western countries' unrivalled competitiveness in economics and military. On the basis of its hard power, the West has much more say than their non-Western counterparts in the international discourse system.

This, to some extent, contributes to the West-supremacy mentality. In this context, selling its political system and values to "inferior countries" becomes politically correct in the West. This also explains why the U.S. launched the Arab Spring in the early 2010s, which has ironically dragged the Middle East into an abyss of misery, and has been striving to transplant its systems on other non-Western countries elsewhere in the world.

But China's rise in recent years has posed a direct challenge to the West-supremacy mentality. The socialist country has unsurprisingly become a primary target of harsh attacks by the West.

The NYT-led Western media's double standards originate from the changes in international configuration and thus are unlikely to disappear in the short span of time. But no matter how biased the West depicts its imaginary rivals, it will not alter the irreversible trend of multi-polarization where different political systems coexist. (Script writer: Liu Jianxi)