The Chinese Government has responded strongly to reports by foreign media sources that China is the source of the current outbreak of swine flu. A spokesman from the Ministry of Health, Mao Qun’an, said the reports were “regardless of truth and scientific common sense”. The Agriculture Minister descibed them as “groundless”. Confused? And with good reason. There are no such reports. There is no available evidence linking the current outbreak of swine flu to China, and no one has said there is.
Though there was an outbreak of swine flu in China in 2005. It reportedly killed more than 30 people and symptoms included nausea, fever, vomiting, and bleeding under the skin. Non-government media were banned from the infected area.
Then from 2006-07, the Chinese pig population was decimated by a disease Chinese scientists claimed was Blue Ear Disease, a respiratory and reproductive illness that affects only pigs. Non-Chinese scientists were sceptical, saying that blue ear disease was generally not so lethal. The Chinese refused to provide samples of what was killing the pigs. In China, these events led to sky-rocketing pork prices, inflation, a slump in pork exports and an astronomical increase in imports, predominantly from the United States.
Last week China announced they would no longer be importing pork from parts of the United States, a step echoed by others, including Russia, Japan and South Korea. Some have stopped importing from Canada, who with the United States have a market share on world pork exports of approximately 50%. Set to gain from this are Brazil, certain European countries, and China.
And why wouldn’t China be looking look to increase their export value while reducing reliance on imports, delivering a win for an ailing economy whose trade figures have slumped by close to 50% since October last year?
But why the double-think over ‘foreign media sources’? Could this be Chinese ‘soft-power’ at work on their own population, reaffirming the message that China and the Chinese are a misunderstood nation at seige by foreign devils?