Ever since the Covid pandemic has taken shape, the Chinese Communist party and its tight grip on media hasn’t been seen in good light globally, making countries even more wary of authoritarian intervention.
Media has always played a role of shaping a country’s narrative worldwide through which, it could attract many audiences and shape their preferences through which it will be impossible for hidden agendas such as the COVID pandemic, to be revealed which could be seen through the role played by the Chinese Communist party, which has claimed credit for China’s rapid development, economic growth and influencing the opinion of the masses amid corruption and speculation taking place in the party.
Media Restriction Over Reputation
The CPC has made enormous efforts to tighten its position through putting restrictions on free access to information through barring freedom of media, opinion and also increase its grip in order to ensure law and order for protecting its image and give serious punishments to those who violate these crackdowns, which include life imprisonment. These initiatives have given a backing to the CPC in order to survive for many decades by banning any public opposition, henceforth creating fear in their minds about the consequences.
Ever since Xi Jinping took over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party, the party has become more repressive and active with respect to role of media in its propaganda, promotion of Chinese values and didn’t want any foreign media interference since they use it for their own economy and capitalist development, as stated by Xi during a visit to Central Television headquarters ,while interacting with its US staff in 2016.
Also, in the 19th National Congress Meeting of 2017,this idea was again reiterated where the state is stated to be guarantor of rights, peace and order where strengthening of political institutions was one of the core agendas of this meeting which could lead to increased rise of the CPC. Xi repeatedly laid emphasis on ensuring good conduct, benevolence, adhere to strict administrative norms as per ancient values laid by Confucius. This meeting showed a slight signal that the CPC is going to be China and China being the CPC.
Xi’s corruption with respect to making his tenure free of any limit, has not been seen favourably by party colleagues and many times he has given warnings regarding cleansing the party by tackling the enemies within the organisation , due to which there has been a lot of dissent among his stakeholders regarding the position held and also increasing state control on decision making could make it difficult for the younger Chinese citizens to take part in the process and give ideas.
COVID Being Seen As A Real Intention of CPC
The COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as an increased benefit for the Communist Party with respect to its hiding the strategy of containing the virus, where locals and doctors were silenced for raising their voices about the source of the pandemic in Wuhan. Even media personnel were refrained from coming to the province so that no alarm is raised about the issue till the issue became official on 23rd January.
According to a New York Times report, it was said that some media magazines or newspapers such as Caixin which felt that the 2003 SAR’s virus and 2015 Tianjin Disaster fatalities were covered up, many articles containing negative information about the party’s intention were immediately removed since this was considered as an act of espionage by the state health officials plus many arrests were made for whistleblowing about the situation.
In his recent speech at UNGA in September, President Xi acknowledged the role played by medical professionals, scientists and researchers for their contribution towards fighting the pandemic and again, he reiterated about his view on shared destiny, no country falling into a trap of civilisations clashing along with negotiations and dialogue, being a key to solving conflicts, which are in context to the on-going disputes with India, US and Taiwan.
Here, communist party has globally influenced many countries through usage of authoritarian tools such as information collection through developing understandings and dialogue which are some important tools in order to keep a low profile and bide time. Henceforth, it could be said that these methods are being used for creating interdependency and perception creation in countries so that they have a positive perception of China while the latter is looking into its own strategic issues and regional ambitions.
CPC’s COVID Geopolitics
Globally, through its mask and wolf warrior diplomacy initiatives, China has made economic and kit healthcare kit provision commitments to support many countries like Cambodia, Pakistan Nepal , creating a positive image of itself and these tools of soft power could be seen as making of a global order which is based on Chinese dependence.
According to Aaron L Friedberg, countries such as US, India and Australia have been adopting strategies to secure crucial security information through blocking apps such as Huawei, We Chat and Tick-Tock being seen as a threat to national security through which these apps could be getting access to location, body movement, crucial security tools such as passwords, account. China, as stated in a Global Times article , perceives these moves to be initiated by the US to contain many countries towards establishing an anti-China strategy by holding QUAD meetings, repetition of an Indo Pacific containment.
A common dissent has emerged worldwide because of this silent strategy leading to QUAD meetings being held in September and March, where they highlighted about a free Indo Pacific and maritime security, protection of values and norms which proves that the West is viewing authoritarian governments as a threat to democratic values and freedom of institutions.
The Communist party has too many eggs in one basket with respect to foreign policy issues and internal pressure. If the virus strategy came out on time and China revealed the actions in a timely way, as of now, there would have been no alliance speculation or further discussions regarding the same.