China has called on the international community to respond to the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak in a 'calm and rational manner
In a news conference yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying was particularly critical of the United States
for its response to the outbreak, saying its actions - including imposing a travel ban on Chinese travellers - could
create panic and set a “bad example” for others. She also appealed for more protective medical equipment – goggles,
masks and protective suits.
The death toll
from the new coronavirus has now exceeded that of the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 in mainland China. However, the
overall mortality rate is still thought to be low.
As the outbreak continues, other Asian countries have put in border restrictions of varying degrees.
English language coverage by official Chinese media highlights efforts by China to contain the outbreak by ‘mobilising' the entire nation
. This includes the rapid construction of a new hospital
, the disinfecting of trains and buses, and farmers in different provinces working through the night to get fresh food
Coverage in New Zealand
In New Zealand, China’s consul general in Auckland, Ruan Ping, told RNZ
yesterday he was disappointed with the Government’s move to place temporary entry restrictions on foreign nationals
travelling from or through China.
Christchurch-based researcher Dr Shao Wei has been monitoring both Chinese and English language media in New Zealand and
says the tone and theme of the coverage has been changing very quickly - with social media driving the speed.
“Compared to a virtual news blackout during the SARS crisis 17 years ago, WeChat has become the dominant information
provider. The features of WeChat – super fast info dissemination, hyper-connectivity and heightened state surveillance –
have shaped how virus-related info is shared among Chinese New Zealanders during the outbreak, and their response to
Another Chinese media watcher says coverage this week in major Chinese language outlets Skykiwi
and the Chinese Herald
has focused on the practical implications of the border restrictions, aiming to answer questions from international
students and those with family members who were planning to visit or return to New Zealand.
“Students and workers who are now in China are left in limbo and don’t know what to do. It is also a time when many go
back to China or have families come to visit or travel to New Zealand.
“The reaction to the travel restriction is, however, divided depending on how long you have been in New Zealand and
whether you have family and friends in China who need to come. Generally, the Chinese community believes it is
understandable, given New Zealand is vulnerable if there is an outbreak.”
Reports about racism and xenophobia against people of Asian heritage have been increasing both in New Zealand and internationally
as the number of coronavirus cases climbs.
In a widely commented-on LinkedIn post, Auckland’s Junior Lim wrote about being questioned by a fellow passenger on a
domestic flight whether he had just come back from China, and also hearing remarks at the airport from people telling
their children not to stand too close to Chinese people.
“It is upsetting how the coronavirus outbreak is being used to legitimise racism,” Lim wrote, “I went on two domestic
flights this weekend and even though I have lived in New Zealand for over 28 years, I was made to feel like I no longer
Reaction around Asia
Several Asian countries have put in place border restrictions of varying degree. They include Japan, Nepal, Singapore
and South Korea – and North Korea, one of the first countries to shut its borders to visitors from China. Indonesia is
due to temporarily stop flights to and from China this week, and is looking at restrictions on food imports
In the Philippines, which reported the first coronavirus death outside of China and widened its own travel restrictions
over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte urged citizens not to blame Chinese people and to “stop this xenophobia thing
Hong Kong increased its border controls yesterday, closing all but two land crossings with the Chinese mainland. Hong
Kong hospital workers have staged strikes
asking for the government to bar all entries from mainland China.
Taiwan, meanwhile, lacks membership of the World Health Organisation
and is unable to get epidemic information first-hand. Like other UN-affiliated agencies, the WHO is treating it as part
of China. Taiwan's foreign minister has criticised the WHO
for leaving the island vulnerable to flight suspensions.
The virus is also taking an economic toll. China's Shanghai Composite Index
fell about 8 percent yesterday when markets opened after the Lunar New Year break. Global oil prices have also fallen
due to reduced demand.
In New Zealand, our economy is far more closely linked to China's than it was at the time of the SARS outbreak in
2002-03, economist Brad Olsen writes for the Asia Media Centre