Macdonald-Laurier InstituteOTTAWA, ON (April 30, 2020): A recent CBC story about the Epoch Times might be taken to imply that criticism of the Chinese Communist Party and its handling of COVID-19 is tantamount to racism. This unfortunately feeds into China’s ethnonationalist state propaganda.

While there are grounds for fair criticism of the Epoch Times’ editorial choices during the COVID-19 crisis, it is irresponsible to initially headline a story by suggesting the paper, which is owned and operated largely by Chinese people, is racist against people of Chinese origin.

When reporting on China, it is vital to be on guard against disinformation techniques employed by authoritarian regimes such as China. Otherwise, there is a risk of unwittingly advancing these regimes’ interests.

There can be no doubt that China lied to the international community and its own citizens about the nature of COVID-19 and covered up necessary information. This directly facilitated the spread of the disease.

It is true that there is absolutely no evidence that COVID-19 was engineered as a bioweapon, as a commentary article which ran in the Epoch Times had implied. Experts quoted by the CBC rightly point out that this is regarded as a conspiracy theory.*

That however is a side issue. Criticizing China’s actions, and attempting to thoroughly investigate the origins of COVID-19, are necessary steps toward understanding the regime’s culpability. 

Casting the spectre of racism over commentary on China will only promote China’s efforts to silence academics and politicians who are afraid to be seen to be criticizing China or Xi Jinping.

Engaging in discussions regarding China is clearly challenging and fraught with difficulty for media organizations – whether they are the CBC or the Epoch Times. China’s own actions and bullying tactics make it hard for thoughtful critical voices to make themselves heard.

Rather than accepting China’s narrative that criticism of the CCP amounts to racism, it is imperative that media in Canada and elsewhere remain skeptical, critical, and careful in their reporting so as to avoid falling into the traps laid by a brutal authoritarian regime.

*(Editor's note: The CBC has since issued a correction acknowledging that its original headline "incorrectly stated the Epoch Times claimed China made the virus as a bioweapon." This is true, the idea was alluded to in a commentary in one edition, but shouldn't be seen as the Epoch Times' editorial position and shouldn't detract unduly from an important discussion of the CCP's culpability in the global harm done by the virus.)  

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