Western media's five stages of grief at China's poverty eradication success

CGTN| 2021-03-03 10:15:55|Editor: Wang Xiaoyu
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Editor's note: Maitreya Bhakal is an Indian commentator who writes about China, India, U.S. and global issues. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The West sees itself as rich and numero uno. If other nations wish to live long and prosper, they must become obedient to the U.S. This takes myriad forms – ranging from oil suppliers like Saudi Arabia to permanent aircraft carriers like Japan.

China refuses to be subservient. So the U.S. seeks to dominate it. Propaganda remains a key vector in its strategy of hybrid war. Every Chinese misfortune is celebrated, every failure criticized disproportionately and every success downplayed.

When China recently announced the eradication of absolute poverty, the propaganda machine swung into action. The anti-China propaganda showed signs of the standard five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial and anger

The first step, as with any success in China, was to simply lie about it. They questioned whether China had really eradicated poverty. They gleefully pointed out that China's poverty line was lower than that of the World Bank, thus portraying China's success as the illegitimate result of statistical manipulation. This was the same tactic used to deny China's COVID-19 success by questioning its statistics.

Yet, the World Bank itself states that "a country's national poverty line is far more appropriate for underpinning policy dialogue or targeting programs to reach the poorest." Moreover, income is not the only indicator of poverty; access to healthcare, housing, education, electricity and other public services is equally important. The World Bank admits that its poverty line "does not currently take these multiple dimensions of poverty into account." China's poverty alleviation program targets all these factors, but that was relatively ignored by the haters.

This again had echoes in their COVID-19 propaganda, when they had similarly downplayed China's strict lockdown measures (only to change their minds when people in their own countries started dying). One expert quoted in the New York Times questioned, "But I don't know if it's sustainable... Have they really contained the virus? Or have they just suppressed it?" This was the day after Wuhan had reported just one COVID-19 case.

The parallels were uncanny: The Telegraph claimed earlier this week that China's poverty eradication efforts were not "sustainable" and that China was "simply kicking the problem down the road."

Children hold lambs in Pumaqangtang Township of Nagarze County in Shannan, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, April 15, 2020. (Xinhua photo)


Another tactic was simply cherry picking facts – anything to lessen their grief. Thus, with 100 million people lifted out of poverty in the last eight years, they found the handful of people who were somewhat less better off than others, portraying those exceptional cases as representative examples.

"Not all poor people are feeling better off," declared the LA Times, another Sinophobic U.S. propaganda outlet. "Xi Jinping's war drives some to riches, but leaves others behind," brayed AFP.

Yet, you can always find some exceptions to everything if you look hard enough. People looking for exceptions generally end up finding them (and if not, they can always be invented). But for Western media, every rule has exceptions, and those exceptions make the rules.

A second tactic of bargaining was to point out the cost of China's poverty eradication. The New York Times predicted with authority (presumably the same authority with which it once predicted weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) that China may "struggle to sustain" its anti-poverty drive. This was again a lazy rehash of its COVID-19 propaganda, where it had once proclaimed "China may be beating the coronavirus, at a painful cost" early last year.

Depression and acceptance

Any good news from China makes the West highly depressed. After centuries of trying to contain China, whether by gunboats or opium smuggling or economic sanctions, it is understandably difficult to see Chinese lives improving. Thus, perhaps the most significant achievement in human economic history – the elimination of poverty for nearly 100 million people – receives less attention in their "free" media than say, a single court case in Hong Kong.

Acceptance will be even harder. Many in the West believe that their "democracy" is the only legitimate political system for all nations. Any acceptance – let alone admiration – of China's successes would require admitting that China's socialist system represents not only an alternative, but perhaps a better one; that China achieved in a few decades what the West took centuries of imperialist wealth hoarding to accomplish. It would require admitting that maybe one size does not fit all.

The contrast between America and China today couldn't be starker. While America resembles a nation it just invaded – with people dropping dead by the thousands every day (only due to a disease this time instead of a bomb) – and while real wages for most U.S. workers have stagnated for decades, Chinese people's lives keep getting better. And that's a tough pill for Western supremacists to swallow.(Maitreya Bhakal)