Early on in the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the receptionist at the hotel I was staying at in China asked me if it was true that the United States was experiencing an epidemic of influenza that killed 61,000 people last year.
“No…” I responded, perplexed where this idea had arisen from.
In skimming the Chinese news, I had seen some mentions of the flu “epidemic” in the U.S. I classified it as typical misdirection, the kind of subtle criticism of the U.S. that China’s state-owned media engages in from time to time when they are embarrassed, frustrated, or trying to advance a foreign policy goal.
Not all of the Chinese news articles have been completely misleading. QQ News (not a specialized propaganda apparatus) published an article that pointed out the death rate for one set of numbers cited was only 0.05 percent and that “the vast majority were old, weak, or sick. It is possible that their health was already poor.”
Turns out the 61,000 death toll estimate comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, making it all the more fun for China to cite in order to boost their trolling credibility. Like Sean Hannity when he finds a New York Times headline he likes: “Even the liberal New York Times/the American’s own federal health agency says…”
The hotel receptionist is interested in foreign news and opinion and was initially skeptical of the Chinese report.
“So it’s fake news?” he asked of the article in question.