China hails its virus triumphs, and glosses over its mistakes

While the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the world, the National Museum of China displayed its "Unity of Strength" via paintings, sculptures and calligraphy, all faithful to the socialist realism style, that depict what the regime says is its success in responding to the crisis.

Let's take a look:

'Heroic deeds'

Chinese workers raise their fists beside a red communist flag in a painting displayed at a Beijing museum, one of nearly 200 works put together for a propaganda exhibition that hails, not the Maoist past, but the "heroic deeds" of frontline medics fighting the coronavirus.

(Photograph:AFP)

Spread the Wuhan virus

Since the discovery of the deadly contagion in Wuhan at the end of last year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has sought to model itself as the vanguard in the fight against COVID-19.

Tens of millions of people were forced into a crippling lockdown when Wuhan and its surrounding province were shut down in late January, 2020.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Li Wenliang

Outside China, Beijing has been the target of Western criticism over accusations that it covered up the initial outbreak, silencing early whistleblowers, including doctor Li Wenliang, who alerted colleagues to the virus in late December but was reprimanded by local authorities.

(Photograph:Others)

CCP propaganda

Within the country, the Chinese Communist Party propaganda machine has relentlessly pushed a positive narrative.

The exhibition, which opened on August 1 for two months, only allows visitors with Chinese identity cards, and so, is not accessible to foreigners.
 

(Photograph:AFP)

Rising cases in China

China has officially recorded around 85,000 cases and just over 4,600 deaths, which continues to rise daily and but the country claims it has now largely brought its domestic virus spread under control.
 

(Photograph:AFP)

Be the only nation to benefit from the virus

China has capitalised on the world’s distraction to claim sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea, intimidate Taiwan, and assert more authority over Hong Kong in an attempt to quash the pro-democracy movement there.

It has taken advantage of vulnerable countries in Africa that are struggling to cope with the coronavirus and its economic impact by offering much-needed debt relief — but only if those countries provide lucrative national assets as collateral.

And after the US suspended funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) for allegedly being too cosy with Beijing, the Chinese government pledged millions of dollars in additional support for the organisation, giving China even more influence in the global health agency and allowing the country to portray itself as the new champion of multilateralism.

(Photograph:AFP)

Miles away from reality

The exhibition at the museum overlooking Tiananmen Square doesn't show the overwhelmed hospitals in Wuhan, or the homages given to Doctor Li, whose death from the virus in February triggered an usual outpouring of rage against the government on social networks.

Among the large canvases on display, a painting shows an ecstatic nurse reading a letter from President Xi to her colleagues.
 

(Photograph:AFP)

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