The title's question is not rhetorical, and the answer could easily be one word and affirmative. Yes, China poses a threat to the EU. Not so much because of the uncontrollable situation caused by the Covid outbreaks, but rather because of the misleading data being channeled by Beijing, demonstrating that the Chinese authorities, however elegantly put, are neither a portrait of cooperation nor a portrait of sincerity in containing the pandemic.
As these lines were being written, China had officially "admitted" that 15 people had died in the country as a result of Covid between December 7 and the end of 2022. Then, because it was clear that it was underestimating the intelligence of the rest of the world, it was forced to let it be known that the number of cases and victims were higher, without providing specific figures. The images that have circulated, as well as the country's overcrowded hospitals and continuous operation of incinerators, as well as the estimates of authoritative medical analysis companies, have demonstrated that, unfortunately, trust is a concept that cannot be attributed to Beijing, which appears oblivious to the consequences of the misleading data it is channeling and the dangers it poses. According to Airfinity, a British medical analysis firm, the data is not what the Beijing government has been serving up, with 1.8 million infections and 11 000 covid deaths recorded in China every day, and 1.7 million deaths expected by the end of April. This is supported by reports that 70% of Shanghai's 25 million residents, as well as those in other Chinese cities and provinces, are infected. All of this is a far cry from the blackout tactics imposed by Beijing, as well as the inaccurate data that the Chinese authorities insist on channeling. Last week, the Chinese were even refusing free EU aid, including vaccines, claiming that they could handle the situation on their own.
The criticism of Beijing is thus not about the deterioration of the country's situation...It is about the deceptive data that the country has provided to the rest of the world since the first wave...
As a result, China's current dramatic situation is a de facto source of danger. A danger that is being exacerbated and affecting the rest of the world, including the EU, as a result of Beijing's refusal to admit the problem and take a completely honest stance. And because of how easily the Chinese government disseminates facts and figures that have nothing to do with reality. The criticism of Beijing is thus not about the deterioration of the country's situation, which, even if attributed to clumsy handling, should unite and support us all. It is about the deceptive data that the country has provided to the rest of the world since the first wave three years ago until today, which gives the impression that the Beijing Government is indifferent to the consequences that they may cause.
Indeed, it is understood that, in order to mislead the public and keep the number of Covid deaths low, China only records those caused by pneumonia or respiratory failure, while attributing those caused by Covid complications and underlying diseases to other causes. As a result, the number of strictly confirmed Covid deaths remains extremely low, creating a false impression on the one hand while rendering Chinese authorities untrustworthy on the other. After all, the fight against Covid isn't about public perception. Particularly if it is founded on false evidence. However, it does necessitate global collaboration. And the Chinese authorities, who were responsible for the virus's spread three years ago by lying to the public must change course, coordinate and cooperate with the rest of the world with absolute honesty, even now.
And to recognize that the logic of threats and retaliation is flawed. And that the EU must protect its citizens' public health by taking whatever measures are necessary. And this is not a figurative expression. It is a requirement.
[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]