A report by the European External Action Service (EEAS) looking at the spread of disinformation about the COVID-19 outbreak was, according to unnamed European official, pulled from publication because of concerns about Chinese reaction.
The report, which had already been circulated to member states and leaked to media, was quioted saying that China was undertaking a global campaign to deflect blame for Covid-19 with the aim of improving the country’s international status and said there had been both overt and covert activity.
The EEAS denied a report was due to be published, saying an internal report was leaked.
Analysts underline they have seen a push from Chinese media to emphasise the country’s success and other’s failings in dealing with the virus, along with Russia also adopting the strategy on Western failures and errors.
Beijing’s messaging is believed to reflect fears of the Chinese leaders of a backlash once the crisis is over.
A New York Times report this week also claimed that Chinese “agents” had been pushing misinformation in March about a lockdown in the US.
The initial European Union report, obtained by The New York Times, was not particularly strident: a routine roundup of publicly available information and news reports.
It cited the Chinese leadership efforts to curtail mentions of the virus’s origins in Wuhan, in part by blaming the United States for spreading the disease
It also noted that Beijing had criticized France for its slow response to the pandemic and had pushed false accusations that French politicians used racist slurs against the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Ethiopian microbiologist and internationally recognized researcher).
The report also highlighted Russian efforts to circulate false information and sow distrust in Western institutions.
Western officials say China is keen to play up its success in combating the virus and minimise any fallout from its role as the origin of the COVID-19 and early failures to be open about the outbreak.
Image: Chinese “wet” market, source: social media