The Message From Beijing: It’s All Thanks To Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has followed its drastic measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 with an all-out information campaign to present their response at home as visionary as their leadership abroad as magnanimous. Among the stories of Chinese engineers constructing makeshift hospitals in record time, and Chinese doctors sharing their accomplishments with afflicted nations around the world, a consistent theme in the CCP’s messaging has been the value of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in treating COVID-19.

Chinese state media began extolling the value of TCM almost as soon as the virus began attracting international attention, with four posts on Weibo in Chinese on January 28, discussing the efforts of the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a branch of China’s National Health Commission.

The posts marked the beginning of a long lasting campaign to support the claim that TCM was key to fighting COVID-19. Over the ensuing three months, Chinese state media posted 201 times across 55 accounts on the subject. The posts appeared on Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, RSS, Instagram, Weibo, and Twitter. In line with China’s IO campaign “Chinese Scientific Prowess Coveted Around The World” (2019–11–18 to 2020–02–12 with 3,751 posts), the focus on TCM’s efficacy was international. Posts came in 11 languages, only a quarter of which were in Chinese. The reports have been overwhelmingly positive, with a sentiment score of +0.32, though audience response has been muted, with a resonance of -0.02 and average engagements per post of only 10.

In recent weeks, the focus has shifted to how China is evangelizing TCM to the rest of the world. China has posted about collaborations to train American and Italian doctors in TCM. On March 23rd, China began claiming that TCM treatment was effective in 90% of cases of COVID-19.

The CCP’s narrative of how the wonders of state engineering and healthcare have combined with traditional Chinese practices fits neatly into Xi’s Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the CCP’s organizing ideology. As far smaller Western societies far surpass China in total number of cases, the CCP has a uniquely captive audience to offer their blend of socialism and nationalism. Their propaganda machine is taking full advantage.

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