China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a topic of global scrutiny and skepticism. Official reports from the Chinese government have consistently portrayed a controlled situation, with the number of infections and deaths appearing relatively low compared to the scale of the outbreak in other countries. However, mounting evidence and emerging data suggest that the actual COVID-19 death toll in China could be significantly higher than what the leadership in Beijing has disclosed. This essay explores the reasons behind this suspicion, the evidence supporting it, and the potential implications for public health and international relations.
China has a history of underreporting infectious disease outbreaks and attempting to conceal information that may harm the regime’s reputation. Previous outbreaks, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2002-2003, were marred by similar accusations of data manipulation and lack of transparency. This pattern of secrecy and misinformation has led to widespread distrust in the accuracy of official COVID-19 statistics.
The recent spike in cremations in China’s Zhejiang Province during the first quarter of this year raises serious concerns. Official data released by the Zhejiang provincial department of civil affairs indicated a staggering 72 percent increase in cremations compared to the same period in the previous year. A total of approximately 171,000 bodies were reportedly cremated during this period, far surpassing the figures for the first quarters of 2022 and 2021.
The sudden removal of the data and the censorship of related discussions on Chinese platforms only fuel suspicions of a government cover-up. Such actions are indicative of attempts to control the narrative and prevent the public from accessing information that may reveal the true extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.
Discrepancies in reported COVID-19 death tolls have also emerged from various sources, adding to the skepticism surrounding China’s official data. On January 8, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 5,272 COVID-related deaths. However, just six days later, an official from China’s National Health Commission stated that the nationwide death toll during a specific period was 59,938, a staggering difference.
The lifting of strict lockdown measures on December 7 was followed by a new surge of COVID-19 outbreaks across the country. The lack of preparedness, insufficient medical resources, and failure to warn the public were attributed to the escalation. This raises concerns about the government’s handling of the situation and its potential impact on the accuracy of reported COVID-19 death tolls.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed reservations about the accuracy of China’s reported COVID-19 death toll. Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, stated that deaths are likely heavily underreported from China. The WHO’s inability to access independent data within China has further complicated efforts to verify the actual number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country.
International China affairs commentators and experts have echoed these concerns. Tang Jingyuan, a U.S.-based China affairs commentator, argued that Zhejiang’s death toll may be underreported and highlighted other hard-hit regions where cremations have occurred far more frequently than in the past. This disparity in data and observations suggests the potential manipulation of COVID-19 death figures by the Chinese regime.
The underreporting of COVID-19 deaths in China not only poses a significant public health risk to its citizens but also has broader implications for global health security. Accurate data is crucial for identifying trends, assessing the effectiveness of public health measures, and allocating resources appropriately. With the lack of reliable information from China, the international community faces challenges in understanding the true scope of the pandemic and formulating effective response strategies.
Moreover, the lack of transparency and accountability from China regarding its COVID-19 data erodes trust among other countries and international organizations. Transparent data-sharing is essential for global cooperation in combating infectious diseases. China’s failure to provide accurate and timely information hinders collaborative efforts and can exacerbate the spread of the virus beyond its borders.
China’s history of underreporting infectious disease outbreaks and its current handling of the COVID-19 pandemic raise valid concerns about the accuracy of its official data. The spike in cremations in Zhejiang Province and discrepancies in reported COVID-19 deaths suggest that the actual death toll in the country could be much higher than officially disclosed.
The lack of transparency and data manipulation not only endanger public health within China but also have wider implications for global health security and international relations. Timely and accurate data sharing is essential for effective pandemic response and cooperation among nations.
Addressing these concerns requires the Chinese government to prioritize public health over political interests, increase transparency, and allow independent verification of data. Only through open collaboration and shared information can the international community effectively combat the ongoing pandemic and prepare for future health crises.