Observations of expat: Chinese donations

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The Trump-supporting co-host of my weekly broadcast for American radio is livid. The Chinese, he said, are selling medical equipment to European countries that was donated to them back in January/February. “I won’t forgive them for this if I live another 70 years!” He exclaimed while banging his desk so hard that I feared he would punch a hole in the woodwork.

I was confused, as well as concerned about Lockwood Phillips’ furniture and blood pressure. I had read reports about China donating supplies to Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Also that China’s medical manufacturing industry is now at full blast; 110 million facemasks daily. I have also heard that some merchants (Chinese and others) are guilty of price gouging and that a high proportion of the medical equipment coming out of China is defective. And finally, China’s Covid-19 statistics are proving to be extremely dicey and this is creating difficulties for the rest of the world. But I had not heard that the Chinese were cashing in on the charity of other countries.

Lockwood, despite his politics, is usually a very well-informed and reliable news source. So, after the broadcast I set out to learn more. It was an interest bit of detective work.

The main source of the story was the new American darling of conservative American websites—The Western Journal. Forget about Breitbart News. Their user figures are falling through the floor—down from 17.5 million unique monthly visitors to around the 4 million mark.  The Western Journal is clocking a staggering 40 million unique users a month.

Actually, the first hint (and it was no more than that) came from a throw away line from the Trump-supporting far-right and often unreliable broadcaster Fox News on 26 February. It was then picked by Amber Abney at the American Spectator on 4 April, another conservative platform. The American Spectator, by the way, has no connection with its British namesake.  Ms. Abney, quoted as her source, “A high-ranking Trump Administration source.” The cloak of anonymity means the Trump Administration can easily deny the report if need be.

On 6 April the story took flight when it was reproduced by the Western Journal for the perusal of its 40 million readers. From there it was picked up by Breitbart News and then again by another far-right outlet National File.

The Western Journal, the key link in this chain, has an interesting story. It started life in 2008 as Western Journalism. Its founder was political consultant Floyd Brown who was so conservative that George Bush senior refused to allow him anywhere near his presidential campaign. Western Journalism quickly established itself as a purveyor of alt-right fake news and was regularly blacklisted by Facebook and other social media platforms. Then in 2015 it was sold to Floyd’s son Patrick, owner of Liftable Media. He cleaned up the site and amalgamated it with another conservative website (Conservative Tribune). In 2018, the two platforms were launched as The Western Journal and circulation soared.

All of the shares in the parent company (Liftable) are owned by the Brown family which includes the original founder Floyd. The website has steered away from embarrassing fake news (with a few exceptions) but a cursory glance at its stories reveals that it is as far-right as ever.

The key to the tale above is that the coverage of this China story has so far been confined to suspect far-right media. If it is true then it is a great story and we should ask:  why has it been ignored by the mainstream news?

I should add that I am not a fan of the Chinese government. I am wholeheartedly opposed to totalitarian single-party states. But Beijing’s success on the economic front and in combating coronavirus is helping them to win support for their political system. This is damaging to democratic America and Europe. Chinese success cannot be countered by xenophobia, fake news, misinformation or an isolationist America First Policy.

* Journalist Tom Arms is vice-chairman and secretary of Tooting Liberal Democrats and a regular contributor to Lib Dem Voice.

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24 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 10th Apr '20 - 11:51am

    Thank you for an interesting and timely article!
    Might we assess “democracy”and other forms of governance by performance in output and process?
    Is the U S serving its citizens better than China?
    Ditto U K?

  • Is the CCP actually on top of the virus , because they claim the only new cases are from people coming from outside of China. Is that itself not more than a little xenophobic and a way for the CCP to increase patriotic support by blaming “the other”. The claims against China may or may not come from suspects sources, but the claims for China come from the same CCP that covered up the outbreak in first place, the same CCP that clamps down on any protest, the same CCP blocking websites it believes threaten its interests, the same CCP that doesn’t allow free speech and the same CCP using concentration camp methods on a religious minority. We should not be glossing over this stuff by saying things like “I’m no fan of the China’s leadership, but….”. It is a very suspect regime and the fact we currently buy stuff from it doesn’t make it less suspect. I really don’t get this strange willingness to take the claims of the CCP more or less at face value. China isn’t really winning the PR war outside of some groupings of the commentariat. Once this is over, it will not be business as usual. A lot of countries will be looking at manufacturing elsewhere and localising key health industries.

  • Richard Underhill. 10th Apr '20 - 3:26pm

    I wrote to a relative in Seattle,
    “”this Corona Virus thing seems to be overtaking almost any other news”
    Yes, that is happening here too, probably all over the world.
    The news today is that Boris Johnson is out of intensive care, while still in the same hospital. His father, Stanley, has been interviewed on the radio, BBC Radio 4, and has spoken of his relief on behalf of their family. He agreed that Boris will need a long period of rest. A specialist at another hospital said the same thing, it applies to all patients emerging from intensive care.”
    Today she replied
    “Who is this Boris Johnson?” She does listen on tv to what President Trump says.

  • I think the Lib Dems won’t exist outside a few bubbles in local government within my lifetime.

    Fox News isn’t `far right` unless the person saying it is `far left`. Tucker Carlson is someone I’m very interested in.

    He seems to embody in some way the new political horseshoe that’s developing on a day by day basis. Right is now melding with left to form a new liberalism based on the needs of the times.

    We are facing a terrible enemy – the CCP. And all the writer of this piece can go on about is proprietors of media outlets.

    We can talk about the way the CCP uses western liberalism to feather its own nests, the way it used Daigou to buy up equipment to send back to China while it was pretending that there was no human to human transmission. its own xenophobia and racism towards foreigners etc etc. Anyone that isn’t a died in the wool far leftist knows the list.

    The real question for Liberal Democrats is: `Why China?` and `when China fully becomes the big issue and people start to say `take back control` what will happen then? What policies will the Lib Dems have? Trump will be our friend on this and WILL exact his price. What price will you be exacting?

    Your stuck in the 70s. Everyone else is moving forward and tackling real issues.

  • I just want to make it clear that I am not a fan of Fox News and I think Trump is awful. I also don’t think “the Left” or “Liberals” are to blame for the CCP. I think what has happened is that China became a symbol of the positive effects of global free trade. Large numbers of its population have undoubtedly been lifted out of poverty by this trade. The problem is that there is tendency to see the Chinese leadership as a sort of technocratic committee making mistakes, but on the brink of change as it embraces the world. The reality is that the CCP rules as a single party police state that is mainly concerned with its image on the world stage and control at home. It is not proving its credentials for world leadership by kindly donating medical supplies to stricken nations. It is trying to save face after it covered up the outbreak that caused the pandemic in the first place and is telling the Chinese people to be wary falling for ineffective democratic Western values . The CCP is very oppressive, very willing to imprison large numbers of people, very keen to clamping down on minorities and blocks any form of criticism as a matter of routine, whilst using money and soft power to project its image as a “modern” nation across the globe. Ignore the gloss and look at what it is, rather than what makes us comfortable with trading with it. We should take anything the CCP says with a giant pinch of salt and not chorus bits of its PR. We are currently paying the price for its cover up. It is wrong to demonise the Chinese people, but it is not wrong to lay the blame on their government where it belongs. After this is over there will be a re-think. I suspect it will not favour China.

  • Tony Harris 11th Apr '20 - 7:43am

    Interesting article but I still didn’t understand whether the story was true or not or what the background was? Am I just being dim?

  • Glenn 11th Apr ’20 – 6:17am………….. It is wrong to demonise the Chinese people, but it is not wrong to lay the blame on their government where it belongs. After this is over there will be a re-think. I suspect it will not favour China……….

    Leaving governments aside I knew about the spread of this virus outside mainland China in late January (just from watching the news).. On 12 January ..China publicly shared the genetic sequence of COVID-19 and even earlier the WHO issued guidance on its transmission…..

    Later the expeience of European countries like Italy/Spain were ignored especially by the USA and UK..

    What ‘specifically’ caused the virus (according to the New Scientist the virus may not have started at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market in December after all) is unknown but don’t blame China for our incompetence..

  • Totally agree with “expats”.

    The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has a web site which gives a chronology.
    This includes the following which are in the public domain, and therefore able to be checked.

    9 January China reported that a novel Coronavirus had been detected
    10 January China published the first genome sequence.
    30 January WHO declared the outbreak ‘a public health emergency of international concern’.
    11 March WHO declared an international pandemic.

    It really is important to base discussion on published facts. The political complexion of the government of the People‘s Republic of China has nothing to do with the worries that most of us have about whether we will contract the disease. Nor on our worries about what will happen to our society in the months to come.

  • Expats
    What is you like about the CCP. Why do you jump on every comment I make pointing out the reality that it is effectively a dictatorship and not to be trusted! If it didn’t start in the Huanan market where did it come from? I’m sorry but I think the way some people make excuses for the Communist Dictatorship that runs China, a dictatorship that supresses dissent, that routinely blocks outside internet sites, that executes more people than any other government other than the Communist dictatorship that runs North Korea, that uses concentration camps to re-educate a religious minority and so on is very suspect. But, hey, the trains run on time and you’ve got admire their discipline. They wouldn’t tolerate teenagers flouting the People’s Lockdown rules. They’d take em’ straight down to the cells. They do things properly do the CCP.

  • @ Glenn….. sorry to interfere….. but what bit of my friend Expats’ comment,

    “It is wrong to demonise the Chinese people, but it is not wrong to lay the blame on their government where it belongs” ….. don’t you understand ?

  • Tom Harney
    This was after the CCP hounded the doctor who was warning about the virus in December 2019, that instead chose to supress news reports and let it spread for nearly two months before trying to save face once it had gone right round the world. The CCP has everything to do with it and the soggy defence of that dictatorship would be comical if it wasn’t so depressing.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Apr '20 - 11:28am

    Glenn – perhaps you might have fallen into the trap of believing “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”?

    I am perfectly prepared to regard statements from Chinese authorities as being suspect – especially given their early attempts to suppress warnings about Covid-19 from medics.

    But I’m alo quite prepared to regard statements from USA authorities and politicians as being suspect. And that doesn’t just apply to the Trump era. I’ve felt for a long time that USA foreign policy is based largely on that “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” concept. That could make the USA a significant risk to the rest of us on the planet.

  • Glenn 11th Apr ’20 – 10:49am…
    Why personalise my response?..I’m more than happy to condemn the Chinese governmment on human rights, etc. but to use that as an excuse for the current situation is a simple ‘get out’ for the UK and USA’s failure to act in a timely and appropriate manner.
    Yes, the authorities did hound the doctor but is that so very different of our own doctors/nurses being threatened with dismissal if THEY question the official line.

    What is already happening here, and more so in the USA, is using China to deflect criticism…When this is all over I expect the biggest whitewash/blame shifting of all time…

    BTW…Why ask me where the virus came from? As I said, it was the New Scientist (a respected journal) that casts doubt on the Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market story.
    As for your comments about trains on time etc.???

  • David Raw
    Your friend Expats was directly quoting me. I absolutely agree with the statement “It is wrong to demonise the Chinese people, but it is not wrong to lay the blame on their government where it belongs”. This is why I wrote it in first place. It is the second to last sentence of my post of 6.17am 11/04/2020,. Your friend Expats was objecting to it for some reason.
    Nonconformistradical
    I don’t regard Fox News as my friend. I would suggest the exact opposite is going on in that some people are so blinded by dislike of America and politics in Britain that they will lap up anything critical, even the statements issued by a single party police state. I do not supports wars of regime change. I am critical of American and British foreign policy over the last two decades. However, I will not swallow the PR pumped out by the CCP or pretend to have much truck with its apologists.

  • The point that I made, and has not been answered is that we know for a fact that China published the genome sequence of a novel virus on 10th January. This included informing the WHO. There is no doubt that there were cases of symptoms which had an initially unknown cause before that. That is why the work was done.
    The dates I gave are a matter of public record. I have not referred to anything that happened in Wuhan, as this would be based on statements by the Chinese authorities.
    I do feel that it is important to look at the facts available to us.
    I do not speak Chinese so I would have no means of even trying to check what was happening in China in any case.

  • Tom

    How about occasionally playing the ball not the man?

    We know that China lied about SARS in 2002 & reports from numerous independent sources that their Corona figures are laughable.

  • I don’t dispute what the CCP did in January. What I find weird is glossing over what it didn’t do in December and the willingness to ignore what it does do to dissenters, its religious minorities, Tibet and protestors. I just will not buy into the idea that it has its heart in the right place . The fact that the CCP runs an oppressive police state is not irrelevant to the spread of Covid19 or its actions to save face. I think the people who gloss over it are falling into the same trap as those who used to gloss over the evils of the Soviet Union or Mao in previous decades. I believe we should take anything coming from the CCP with a humungous pinch of salt and stop elevating it. It is not winning the PR wars. It’s just a bigger tin pot dictatorship trying to cling onto power at home and its influence opinion abroad.

  • Glenn

    Excellent synopsis.

  • There is no need to attack me personally. It is very important to establish what happened so that we know how to deal with it. I gave the dates which are in the public domain. We know China first revealed what was happening. We need to make sure that our government now has a disaster plan to deal with future events.
    As far as our relationship with China is concerned, I was aware that our country has been busy building links with China. I was surprised at the number of UK citizens who needed repatriating from Wuhan. How many of these carried the virus I do not know.
    As I say the my concern is the virus, I gave the dates which we know. I have read many suggestions that the U.K. did not know about it until late January. The actual date was January 10 when the actual nature of the virus was given, so we along with all of countries could start to work on things like detection and vaccines. This of course happened.
    It is easy to establish the timeline for what our government did. We all lived through it. It would help if we discussed that.

  • As far as disinformation goes this takes some beating….

    Although now they’ll all deny they ever said any of this…

    https://twitter.com/i/status/1246146713523453957

  • Tom Harney
    I wasn’t attacking you personally. I was attacking a general willingness to ignore what the CCP is and what it does.

  • james – “Fox News isn’t `far right` unless the person saying it is `far left`. Tucker Carlson is someone I’m very interested in.

    He seems to embody in some way the new political horseshoe that’s developing on a day by day basis. Right is now melding with left to form a new liberalism based on the needs of the times” – oh, please james. Tucker Carlson is no friend of common people. He is just using social division to make people ignore what his robber baron friends are doing (like gutting ACA or cutting social security for example). He only rails against “the elites” when it does not matter. Fox and Friends does have responsibility in this situation, they spent the whole February calling Covid a hoax, and then spent much of March railing on lockdown policy and calling for “reopen the economy by April” – which is laughable.

    Of course, CCP is clearly responsible for lying and hiding the nature and extent of the virus. But South Kore still succeeds under the same conditions and lack information, while most Western countries (except for Australia, NZ, Denmark, Norway and to a lesser extent Canada), especially Tucker’s beloved Trump America, failed big time in their own policy responses.

  • Apparently Fox News is lobbying for “reopening America by May”, ignoring the fact that death toll will surge and that it is the state governors who will make the decisions. Perhaps nobody should take Fox News seriously anymore.

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