The United Kingdom’s government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is reportedly “furious” with China, and has pledged a “reckoning” for the country’s “disinformation campaign,” which U.K. officials believe downplayed the number of Chinese coronavirus cases by “15 to 40” times.
Business Insider reports that Johnson’s government is the first to suggest that China could face economic consequences for the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
“UK government officials are accusing China of spreading disinformation about the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in its borders,” the outlet says, adding that officials believe China’s reported number of coronavirus cases — just over 81,000 — is far too low, and that the real number of cases could be “15 to 40 times” official Chinese reports.
In the United States, a battle has raged in “woker” circles over whether it is appropriate to refer to the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, as a “Chinese” virus, a “Wuhan” virus, or the “Chinese coronavirus.” But certain officials in the United Kingom say China’s involvement in the global pandemic should be front and center, especially as the world deals with an incredible economic fallout from lockdowns and other measures designed to curb the spread of the disease.
“It was the case … [that] the first case of coronavirus in China was established in December of last year, but it was also the case that some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this,” the U.K.’s Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove told the BBC late last week.
“It is going to be back to the diplomatic drawing board after this,” a Johnson administration official, who declined to give a name, told Radio Free Asia. “Rethink is an understatement.”
“There has to be a reckoning when this is over,” another said. A third added, “the anger goes right to the top,” suggesting that Johnson himself is making plans to alter official policy towards China in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, the U.K. announced that Chinese telecommunications company Huawei would be given a role in developing the nation’s 5G mobile phone network — an agreement that shocked the world, given China’s penchant for widespread espionage and its lack of concern for privacy. That agreement, though, could be first on the chopping block after the coronavirus smoke clears, per BI.
“We’re allowing companies like Huawei not just into our economy, but to be a crucial part of our infrastructure. This needs to be reviewed urgently, as does any strategically important infrastructure that relies on Chinese supply chains,” a British cabinet minister reportedly told the British weekly, Mail on Sunday.
China has tried to ingratiate itself to a suffering Europe by offering Chinese-made medical supplies, including masks, personal protective equipment, and even coronavirus tests to struggling countries like Italy, France, and Spain. But, the BBC reports, thousands of Chinese-made tests have proven unreliable, and hundreds of thousands of masks and other pieces of PPE are now on their way back to China after countries like the Netherlands discovered the masks lacked filters and did not fit properly.