How to Counter China’s Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign

April 9, 2020
Natasha Bajema

This article is part of World War “V”: The COVID-19 Pandemic, a collection of all CNS COVID-19-related articles.

The following is an excerpt of an article in Defense One.

Whether we like it or not, the United States is engaged on a new battlefield defined by the “speed, spread, and accessibility of information,” as P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking write in their prescient book, Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media. But our government does not appear to have received the memo. As a result, we’re losing the global war over the narrative about COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic. And there is much more at stake than words.

Within weeks of discovering the novel coronavirus late last year, the Chinese government began to spin powerful narratives to deflect its responsibility and disguise its accountability for the outbreak, covering up information that might lead to Patient Zero and the source of the novel pathogen, and presenting itself as the global model and potential international partner for effectively responding to the outbreak—a role the United States might have typically held in the past.

In response to Beijing’s brazen attempts to distort the facts, senior U.S. government officials, led by the President, have mostly resorted to racist rhetoric about COVID-19 and pointing fingers of blame at China. This ugly strategy not only hurts the domestic effort to protect the health and safety of the American people against this dangerous disease, it will likely backfire in a struggle for global influence with China. The blame game is not a good look for any country seeking a leadership position on the global stage in the midst of a global pandemic.

A better approach would be to rise above the disinformation battle and seize the narrative with science and technology. As noted in our organization’s Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent framework, though we are faced with unprecedented threats, we also possess unprecedented tools for combating those threats. Unlike the past, today we have the tools to fight disinformation campaigns that distort facts that are grounded in science. Using gene sequencing, for example, scientists can trace the origins of the COVID-19 virus and its evolution as well as the future path of the outbreak with genomic data.

Building powerful narratives around American companies, scientists and government experts leading scientific and technological innovations for overcoming this crisis would reassert the United States as a global leader whilst aiding the global effort to respond to the pandemic.

Continue reading at Defense One

See Also

World War “V”: The COVID-19 PandemicWorld War “V”: The COVID-19 Pandemic
A collection of all CNS COVID-19-related articles

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