OPINION. The aggressive Chinese attacks on Sweden for our handling of the Coronavirus should be seen against the fact that the Chinese Communist Party wants to escape all kind of responsibility for the spread of the epidemic.
Lousy animal husbandry and poor food standards, along with fear of the dictatorship and its culture of silence, are the main reasons why the world is presently wrestling with a terrible global pandemic. Its background lies in the inability of a totalitarian system to take people's perceptions, security and life into account. It is not Sweden or Europe that is the problem in all this. It's China.
And it is China that, using its economic power, systematically threatens democratic countries in order to destabilize and silence criticism.
On Radio Sweden, the Chinese propaganda attack was incomprehensibly described as something very sharp and because of that worth listening to. They neglected that this is how the Communist regime for a long time has acted against Sweden, among other democracies.
Two years ago, a group of Chinese tourists who arrived on the wrong date to a hotel were denied access to the rooms, for the simple reason that they were reserved for a day later. The propaganda channels of the Chinese regime described this as an insult of the Chinese people, and, as they claimed, a violation of human rights and freedoms.
The imprisonment of Gui Minhai
Moreover, last year, when Swedish citizen Gui Minhai – in his absence, being illegally imprisoned by Chinese authorities – was to receive a prize at the Swedish PEN club's annual meeting with a member of the Swedish government attending, the Chinese regime threatened Sweden in every way.
When the same Gui Minhai earlier this year was sentenced in a legal process that lacks any legitimacy as regards right and wrong, Chinese authorities warned Swedish representatives not to criticize the verdict and Chinese oppression.
Now, a few months after the Coronavirus has spread worldwide from Wuhan, China, the Communist Party is eager to blame everyone else for the damage it has caused us all.
One conspiracy theory being spread is that the virus did not originate in China at all but was planted there by the CIA. Another conspiracy theory suggests that it came from Canada. We saw the same pattern of denials and false accusations when Iran shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane and when Russian air defense units in Ukraine shot down the airplane MH17. A dictatorship does not only oppress its citizens but also the truth.
That is why China now claims that Sweden is the major problem in the European fight against the spread of infection, not because it is true but because the lie suits them.
Regardless of how we discuss crisis management in a democracy like the Swedish, the claim is ridiculous. Sweden has a lower number of infected people per inhabitant than many other countries in Europe. And the infection spreads at different rates because of the power of the virus. The allegation that Sweden is the main problem in Europe is the invention of propaganda, intended to spread distrust and contradictions. Europe has a common problem in fighting the spread of the infection and it is not solved by national isolation.
Closed borders ar a major threat
Closed borders not only make the necessary international and European cooperation more difficult; it also harms economic development even more than the Corona crisis as such. Our ability to manage illnesses depends on our endurance over time, not only in the economy but also in the labor market.
Apart from undermining the ability to deal with the virus, shutting down a society altogether ultimately freezes the activities that are crucial to saving lives in all non-Corona contexts. This certainly doesn't worry Chinese leaders.
There are those who claim that we must prioritize people's lives over the economy, as an argument for shutting down as much as possible. It is a false conflict. It completely ignores the development of both the global and national economies is crucial to our ability to save lives.
Apologize, mr ambassador!
The world today has a smaller proportion of poor people than ever, a lower infant mortality rate than ever, fewer people dying from the major diseases (far more extensive and fatal than the coronavirus) and an ever-higher average life expectancy. This is a direct consequence of the evolution of the global economy. Breaking it would affect people extensively and draconically.
This does not worry Chinese leaders either. Now, they want to put the blame for the global crisis they are responsible for on anybody but themselves. In fact, China's leaders should apologize to the world for epidemics coming from China because of the dictatorship's failure to address food safety, animal standards, and because its repression of truth and the freedom of its own citizens.
China's ambassador to Sweden should take the lead.
Chairman of Stockholm Free World Forum
Former member of the European parliament