Thursday , 23 September 2021

Fact Check: Has China Defeated the Pandemic?

iranwire.com – On November 20, 2020, the Tehran-based newspaper Kayhan declared a “complete defeat of the coronavirus in China”. Quoting President Xi Jinping, the ultraconservative daily wrote: “While the World Health Organization has warned of an upward curve of Covid-19 deaths in many countries, China yesterday announced the complete defeat of coronavirus within the country. China, which has a population of more than 1.5 billion, has completely overcome Covid-19, and the official end of this deadly disease in China has been announced by the Chinese leader!!”

Has the President of the People’s Republic of China announced the complete defeat of the coronavirus disease? If so, was he correct?

The Original Source of the Claim

Kayhan’s report was in part a direct lift from a “news” item published by Tasnim news agency the day before. Tasnim’s coverage also said the “official end” of the disease had been “announced by the Chinese leader!!” – but neither of these outlets cited a source and it is not at all clear where the statements originated from.

Tasnim’s article headlined with the claim that the “Red Dragon Nation” was “busy celebrating” the end of coronavirus in the country. It was topped with a picture of Chinese people performing a traditional dragon dance in the middle of a busy square. This picture was actually taken in front of the National Portrait Gallery in London, UK, during Chinese New Year festivities at least as early as 2016.

In addition, a review of Tasnim’s recent coronavirus-related coverage suggests that the China “story” was rather intended as a covert means of drawing attention to the revived debate on “traditional medicine” currently underway in Iran ahead of next year’s presidential race. Along with its report, Tasnim released a video that was four minutes and 56 seconds in length, but of which only the first 35 seconds related to “the complete defeat of the coronavirus in China”. The rest was devoted to explaining the concept and importance of traditional medicine.

Is the Story True?

On the same day this “news” was reported, Chinese President Xi Jinping had given a speech at the G20 summit. But despite the headlines, nowhere in this speech – the full text of which has since been published – did he claim a “complete defeat of the coronavirus in China”.

The points Xi did make on this topic at the G20 summit were all related to international co-operation. The Chinese premier first praised the “irreplaceable” role of G20 countries in the global battle against Covid-19, through research and development of medicines and vaccines, keeping industrial and supply chains open and easing the debt burden of developing countries: measures, he said, that had “given the world confidence”.

Xi Jinping then went on to list four areas in which, he said, efforts to “contain the virus, stabilize the economy and protect livelihood[s]” should be stepped up. First, he said, a “global firewall” should be built against Covid-19 to “first put the disease under control at home”. Second, he said, the “smooth functioning” of the global economy should be ensured through the reduction of tariffs and barriers and the “liberalization” of trade of key medical supplies, based on mutual recognition of health certificates. Xi also suggested trying to breach the “digital divide” between countries, and finally pursuing “more inclusive development” through targeted debt suspension and addressing issues such as women’s rights and food scarcity after the pandemic.

“I believe that when Covid-19 is over,” Xi concluded, “our world will rise from a pandemic and emerge even stronger. Let us work together in this spirit to provide a better life for our people and to build a society with a common future for humanity.”

If China had indeed eradicated all trace of coronavirus from within its borders, there would have been no better platform from which to proclaim it to the world. A scan of publicly-available news sources across the globe, including China’s own Xinhua, also gives no indication as to where this supposed claim by Xi Jinping was made.

The Latest Updates on Coronavirus in China

Though the coronavirus infection rate has dropped dramatically in China, the number of new cases has not yet reached zero. According to the latest report by China Briefing, 17 new coronavirus infections were reported by the country on Friday, November 20, while according to a report Johns Hopkins University some 964 new cases were reported in the country over the past month. On November 24, according to official figures reported to the WHO, there were 96 new cases in the country.

Conclusion

Kayhan newspaper and Tasnim news agency have recently quoted Chinese president Xi Jinping as saying coronavirus had been “completely defeated” inside China. The former news outlet was citing the latter, and the latter appears to have used a false story to promote the current hot topic of “traditional medicine” in Iran.

The source of the story is nowhere to be found, and Xi Jinping made no reference to such an achievement in his concurrent address to the G20 Summit. Official statistics reported to the WHO by the Chinese authorities indicate the country has made significant progress in controlling the epidemic, but it is far from over.

Therefore, IranWire determines both Kayhan and Tasnim’s publications to have been “Not true”: a false statement about a specific new event or something that has not been proven to be true before, based on facts and available evidence.

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