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Reality Check of Australian Allegations Against China on COVID-19

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Those preposterous allegations some U.S. politicians and media outlets fabricated to shift the blame on China for their inadequate response to COVID-19 have been proved false by media and experts.

1. Allegation: COVID-19 virus originated in China. On April 3, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an interview with Radio 2GB that the virus started in China and went around the world.

Reality Check: Being the first to report the virus does not mean that China is its origin. In fact, the origin is still not identified. Source tracing is a serious scientific matter, which should be based on science and should be studied by scientists and medical experts.

Historically, places that first reported a virus were often not its origin.

Viruses are the common enemy of mankind, which may appear at any time and in any place. Epidemics are natural in origin, not man-made. The origin of a virus or epidemic is a victim, not a culprit. It is unfair and unacceptable to blame it or hold it accountable.

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More and more countries found cases with earlier onset and no history of exposure to China.

According to an article published by International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, the absence of a link with China and the lack of recent foreign travel suggest that the disease was already spreading among the French population at the end of December 2019. Researchers at the Sacco University Hospital in Milan, Italy, found that the strain of the virus from an Italian patient showed genetic differences compared with the original strain isolated in China.

Two residents in California’s Santa Clara County died of novel coronavirus in early and mid-February. They had no “significant travel history” that would have exposed them to the virus. If they did not contract coronavirus through travel abroad, “that means there was community spread happening in California as early as mid-January, if not earlier than that,” according to Dr. Ashish K. Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dr. Peter Forster of University of Cambridge said that the earliest genome which has been placed into the database is not necessarily the origin of the disease. A study conducted by a research team of the University of Barcelona detected the presence of the novel coronavirus in waste water samples collected in Barcelona, Spain, in March 2019.

On May 19, the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted the resolution on COVID-19 response by consensus. China co-sponsored the WHA resolution and has always been open to joint efforts by the international science community to identify the source of the virus. The resolution strictly restricts the relevant research to identifying the zoonotic source of the virus, intermediate hosts and the route of introduction to the human population, to enhance preparedness of the international community in the future.

China supports research on a global scale led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and made by scientists and medical experts based on the principle of professionalism, integrity and constructiveness.

Markets form an important part of people’s everyday life. /VCG

2. Allegation: COVID-19 may arise from the “wet markets” in China’s central city of Wuhan. Australia’s Prime Minister Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt had on several occasions alleged there was likelihood that “wet markets” in Wuhan were the places where COVID-19 was thought to have originated.

Reality Check: There are no so-called “wildlife wet markets” in China. What we have in China are farmers’ markets and live poultry and seafood markets. They sell fresh fish, meat, vegetables, seafood and other farm produce. A few of them sell live poultry. Basically, they are not different from the fish markets or fruit and vegetables markets in Western countries. Such markets exist not only in China, but also in many other countries. They form an important part of the supply chain for people’s everyday life. No international law restricts the opening or operation of such markets.

3. Allegation: China did not suspend outbound international flights from Wuhan when the city was put under lockdown, thus causing the spread of the virus to the world. Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on April 16 alleged that reports relating to Chinese flights out of Wuhan during the coronavirus outbreak demonstrated the need for “a level of transparency” on the part of the Communist Party of China. Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in his article on Financial Review that China tried to stop the spread of the virus to other parts of the country but “didn’t care that it could spread to other parts of the world.”

Reality Check: China took the most stringent measures within the shortest possible time, which has largely kept the virus within Wuhan. Statistics show that very few cases were exported from China.

China put Wuhan under a temporary lockdown starting January 23, meaning that there were no outbound commercial flights or train services from January 24 through April 8, including those from Wuhan to other Chinese cities and to foreign countries.

The Chinese government took the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures in a timely fashion, and effectively broke the chain of transmission. According to a Science report, thanks to these measures, the number of infections in China was reduced by more than 700,000.

Australian Prime Minister Morrison claimed on March 20 that, around 80 percent of Australian coronavirus cases have been imported, and that the United States is the country of origin for most of the coronavirus cases in Australia.

The Australian Department of Health noted that only a very small portion of imported cases came from Northeast Asia. Data from Canada’s major provinces show that the virus was brought into the country by U.S. visitors. The French research institute Institut Pasteur found that the virus strain circulating locally in France is of unknown origin. None of the imported cases in Russia was from China. In Singapore, cases imported from China were less than one-tenth of those from other countries. The Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases believed that the strain confirmed in Japan since early March was not from China.

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4. Allegation: Australian media claimed to have secret information that the coronavirus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. On May 2, the Australian Daily Telegraph published an article by reporter Sharri Markson that disclosed a so-called 15-page intelligence document by the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, saying that the COVID-19 virus may have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Reality Check: All available evidence shows that COVID-19 is natural in origin, not man-made.

On February 19, The Lancet published a joint statement by 27 leading medical experts from eight countries, indicating that scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of coronavirus, and they overwhelmingly concluded that this virus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens.

On March 17, five prominent scholars from the United States, Britain and Australia pointed out on Nature Medicine that the evidence shows that coronavirus is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.

On April 21, WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said at a news briefing that all available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else.

On May 1, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program Michael Ryan said that numerous scientists have looked at the genome sequence of this virus and they were assured that this virus is natural in origin.

The deputy director of German federal intelligence agency doubted the so-called report by the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance and asked the alliance for evidence to support the allegations that the coronavirus originated from a Chinese laboratory. However, none of the five countries’ intelligence agencies said they had released relevant reports.

The Australian government and officials also questioned the document, arguing that the so-called intelligence was only a patchwork based on media reports. An Australian source believes that the so-called secret document might be leaked to the Australian Daily Telegraph by the U.S. Embassy in Australia.

5. Allegation: The draft resolution of the WHA is the result of Australia’s promotion. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a signed article published on The Australian on April 22, that Australia will work with countries that share the same values to set aside the WHO and initiate an independent international review into COVID-19 response. However, Payne told press later that relevant content of the WHA draft resolution drafted by the European Union was first proposed by Australia and her government had been focused to ensure the review “comprehensive, impartial, independent.” Some media outlets, such as The Australian, also worked with the Australian government, saying that Australia’s claims have been widely supported by the international community.

Reality Check: The WHA resolution is one thing, while the so-called “independent international review” previously proposed by Australia is a different kettle of fish.

The 73rd WHA adopted by consensus a resolution on COVID-19 response on May 19. On the evaluation of WHO response, the resolution decides that the evaluation should be initiated by the Director-General in consultation with member states to review experience gained and make recommendations for future work.

The relevant resolution proposes to initiate at the appropriate moment an evaluation rather than to launch an “independent international review” instantly, confirms WHO’s leading role instead of adopting another mechanism, and calls for an evaluation of experience gained and lessons learnt from the WHO-coordinated international health response, rather than an inquiry based on the presumption of guilt targeting any country.

The so-called “independent international review” proposed by Australia is purely political maneuvering under the pretext of COVID-19. Australian politicians took an exclusive attitude towards WHO when proposing the so-called “independent international review,” and the intention of conducting investigations based on the presumption of guilt against China is very obvious.

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6. Allegation: Chinese companies have snapped up medical protection materials in Australia.

Australian media such as the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian and 2GB Radio described the humanitarian action of Chinese companies and businessmen in purchasing medical supplies as a “scandal” supported by the Chinese government, saying the purchase in February by Chinese companies may have contributed to shortages of products in Australia in March when the epidemic became severe.

Reality Check: When Chinese companies purchased supplies in Australia in February, the epidemic had not yet spread and there was no shortage of medical supplies in the country.

China was at a critical stage in the fight against COVID-19 in late January and early February, and Chinese companies’ purchase of medical supplies in Australia was to help China tide over the difficulties. There is no difference from Australian companies’ purchase of medical supplies from China later, in April.

In fact, Chinese companies have stopped purchasing medical supplies in Australia since March.

7. Allegation: The Chinese eat bats. On some Australian media and social media platforms, there are pictures and videos of wild animal markets selling bats and pythons, vilifying the Chinese for eating bats.

Reality Check: The shooting location of the content is not China. Bats have never been part of Chinese menu. And, Wuhan’s Huanan seafood market, where cluster cases were identified in the early days of the epidemic, did not and does not sell bats.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

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Xi-Biden Call Analysis: Cooperation Should be Based Upon Mutual Respect

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In the first phone conversation between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies in seven months, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning had a “candid, in-depth and extensive strategic communication and exchanges” with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“On the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and properly managing differences, the relevant departments of the two countries may continue their engagement and dialogue to advance coordination and cooperation on climate change, COVID-19 response and economic recovery as well as on major international and regional issues,” Xi told Biden. 

White House officials said Biden initiated the 90-minute phone call, which is only the second of this kind since the U.S. president took office.

There had been high expectations for Biden to improve bilateral relations ever since he replaced former President Donald Trump in January.

Biden’s China journey four decades on

Biden came to China in 1979 as a member of the first delegation the U.S. Congress sent to China. The then senator said in a speech that China’s development was good for the United States.

He visited China again in 2011, and wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “a successful China can make our country [U.S.] more prosperous, not less.” 

“On issues from global security to global economic growth, we share common challenges and responsibilities – and we have incentives to work together,” read the article titled “China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise.”

In his first phone call with Xi on the eve of the Chinese New Year in February this year, Biden sent his greetings to the Chinese people. He said he was prepared to have candid and constructive dialogue with China in the spirit of mutual respect and to improve mutual understanding and avoid miscommunication and miscalculation.

Yet such goodwill failed to match up with the actions, according to Yuyuantantian, a public WeChat account that focuses on current affairs. And hostility has been particularly evident in the U.S. Congress. 

In recent months, there have been more China-related bills in the U.S. Congress than ever before, with more than a dozen in July alone, most of which recommended the adoption of opposing or restrictive policies against China. 

The U.S. has made a major strategic miscalculation on China, said Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, as quoted in the Yuyuantantian article. “It mistakenly takes China as a major strategic competitor and believes whatever China does is aimed at undermining the U.S. leadership and dominating the international order.”

Xi has said China and the United States will have different views on some issues, but the key is to respect each other and treat each other as equals. But the U.S. has yet to learn to do that, according to Yuyuantantian.

‘Whether China, U.S. can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world’

China and the United States are respectively the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, whether they can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world, and it is a question of the century to which the two countries must provide a good answer, Xi said in the Friday phone conversation.

The two countries should bring relations back to the right track of stable development as soon as possible for the good of the people in both countries and around the world, he added.

How to get China-U.S. relations back on track has become a “must-solve problem,” Yuyuantantian commented, adding that the ball is now in the U.S. court. 

Washington is gradually losing its reputation all around the world, the public account said. “If it really wants cooperation, it has to ‘get off its high horse,’ face the reality and start an open dialogue with China,” it added. 

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Through the lens: How 20 Years of Conflict Since 9/11 Changed Afghanistan

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The Afghanistan war ended just as abruptly as it had begun. Two decades ago, the September 11 terrorist attacks led the U.S. to formulate its controversial counter-terrorism policy, including its longest war in history – the war in Afghanistan.

Twenty years later, the mountainous country nestled in the heartland of Asia has once again come to a crossroads as the U.S. withdrew its troops, with the Taliban reclaiming the power they lost two decades ago.

Afghanistan has long been a battlefield for global powers, but it has never been conquered, hence its moniker – the “Graveyard of Empires.”

In the series “Through the lens: Afghanistan 2001-2021,” we dive into the scars the war has left on the country, and the fear, wrath and resilience of the Afghan people, in eight episodes.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: How the ‘war on terror’ begins

The September 11 attacks claimed some 3,000 lives, making it the deadliest attack in U.S. history. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: America’s longest war

The U.S. military invaded the country, already war-plagued and impoverished, in the name of the “war on terror.” 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The poppies blossom

In decades of war and destitution, opium poppy plantation and production have become a major source of income for local farmers. “Either Afghanistan destroys opium, or opium will destroy Afghanistan,” former Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: Fears and tears

In the protracted war in Afghanistan, no one suffered more than Afghan civilians. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from homes with no shelter and rarely any food.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The Displaced

Wars after wars have made migration a norm for the Afghan people. As of 2021, Afghanistan is the third largest source of refugees in the world, with the number of Afghan refugees standing at 2.6 million. Domestically, 4 million internally displaced persons are still in temporary camps.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The skyline and the slum

In the capital, Kabul, there are only two kinds of people – the rich and the poor.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The withdrawal

On April 14, Biden announced the U.S. troop withdrawal would be completed by September 11, marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the invasion. In the months that followed, the country witnessed massive chaos. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The future is murky

How the new Afghan government deals with the wide range of social, political and economic issues will determine how an Afghanistan under the Taliban will be received by the Afghan people and the world.

Editors: Zeng Ziyi, Zhao Yue, Wang Xiaonan, Yu Jing, Zhong Xia, Du Junzhi 

Images designed by Liu Shaozhen

Graphics by Yang Yiren 

Producer: Wang Xiaonan 

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Xi Jinping Urges ‘True Multilateralism’ in World’s ‘Daunting’ Economic Recovery from COVID-19

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said the world economy is undergoing a “daunting recovery” which requires “true multilateralism” in the face of fresh COVID-19 flare-ups.

“We are ready to work with all parties to uphold true multilateralism, advocate trust and harmony, promote win-win cooperation, and march with firm steps toward the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind,” Xi said at the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link from Beijing.

The forum – held in Russia every year since 2015 – has the goal of promoting multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year’s session was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the speech, Xi called for the international community to unite. “We need to intensify cooperation in vaccine research, development and production, provide more public goods to the international community,” he said.

The Chinese president also voiced opposition to any sort of politicization of COVID-19 vaccines and origins-tracing.

Extra efforts for mutually-beneficial cooperation

“We need to redouble our efforts to advance mutually-beneficial cooperation,” Xi said at the opening ceremony.

He called for the deepening of collaboration between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union in areas including digital economy and climate change.

The Chinese president also urged the group to embrace a “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” by “narrowing differences” and “building consensus through dialogue and exchanges.”

As Friday marks the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, Xi also called for the defense of the victory’s outcomes.

“The international community must defend firmly the victorious outcomes of World War II, safeguard the truth of history, and stay committed to taking history as a mirror to open up a brighter future,” Xi said.

(Cover: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link, September 3, 2021. /Xinhua)

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