The Chicago Consulate’s outreach in Roth was built on a model that has been used by China around the world. In Poland, President Andrzej Duda was reportedly forced to call on President Xi Jinping to express his gratitude for the medical aid – a call that was later redirected to China’s internal propaganda. In Southeast Asia, China has asked governments to thank China for sending medical teams to help fight the pandemic. “They do this as standard practice in many countries,” said Sun, of the Stimson Center. “But you don’t hear about it because the governments over there just do it.”

As the pandemic accelerated beyond China’s borders, a litany of other examples have come to light. In March, Xinhua, the state’s official news agency, called the US epidemic a “Trump pandemic” and suggested that China could easily halt exports of medical equipment, otherwise states United would be engulfed “in the mighty sea of ​​coronavirus.” When the Netherlands changed the name of their representative office in Taiwan to include the word ‘Taipei’, China warned that it could withhold medical aid in response. No offender was too small: the Wall Street Journal reported that when a Sri Lankan activist named Chirantha Amerasinghe criticized the Chinese government for being “lower class” on Twitter, the Chinese Embassy in Colombo replied: Today, much more smaller than your “high class.” Western governments At the time, Amerasinghe had less than 30 followers.

“There is this common theme of Western hypocrisy, Western decline, publicity of the Chinese model,” said Peter Martin, journalist and author of “China’s Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy”. “There is an ideology behind it. The idea is that our system has a model and it works and the world recognizes it more and more, and the Western system is immoral, broken and in decline. It is really that kind of “sun on the West” ideology behind it, and the strong belief in the effectiveness of the Chinese party-state. “

The campaign was not entirely punitive, however; it also included incentives for good behavior. One facet of the response has been “mask diplomacy”: exercising China’s near monopoly on making essential PPE as a tool to reward friends and punish perceived enemies. Huawei, the struggling Chinese telecommunications giant, donated 800,000 face masks to the Netherlands, months before the country was set to hold its 5G telecommunications auction. More donations went to Canada and France, none of which had decided on its 5G infrastructure. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, warned his colleagues that there was a “global battle of narratives” going on – an assessment that gained popularity in April, when, in the face of pressure from Beijing EU officials rewrote a report on pandemic disinformation to focus less on the actions of the Chinese government.

Roth responded differently. On March 26, he presented a resolution to the State Senate. The “Communist Party of China deliberately and intentionally misled the world about the Wuhan coronavirus,” the resolution said, and Wisconsin stood “in solidarity with the Chinese people to condemn the actions” of the Communist Party. The resolution went on to list a litany of alleged wrongdoing for which the party was responsible, including the crackdown on Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs, the one-child policy, organ harvesting, forced sterilization, crushing of protests. Tiananmen, currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and restricted market access. Roth wasn’t sure if Wu had bothered to research his political party, let alone his political positions, before asking him to pass the resolution. If she had, she might have known he was unlikely to accept it.

But Roth had no illusions that China really cared about him or Wisconsin. “At first I thought they were just coming towards me,” he told me when he spoke to me last summer. “Then I realized this was standard operating procedure. They wanted us to put it through so they could run it in their national media and say, ‘Look, the US, Wisconsin praise us.’ The result was the opposite: he was working on a resolution supporting Hong Kong. “By the time we’re done we’ll have one in Taiwan,” Roth said.

According to the data According to a 14-country survey by the Pew Research Center in October, just weeks before Zhao’s Australian tweet, negative views on China have skyrocketed over the past year, reaching all-time highs in nine of the 14 countries. The change has been particularly striking in countries like Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands which have been the targets of China’s most belligerent diplomacy. In Australia, negative opinions have increased by 24 percentage points since 2019, the biggest single-year change in the country since Pew started conducting the survey in 2008. Sixty-one percent of those polled said that China had mismanaged the pandemic; the most negative opinions came from China’s regional neighbors Australia, Japan and South Korea. (Only the United States received a lower rating for its response to the pandemic.)



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