China promotes its ‘heroic’ battle against virus in new exhibition

Chinese workers raise their fists beside a red communist flag in a painting displayed at a Beijing museum, one of nearly 200 works put together for a propaganda exhibition that hails, not the Maoist past, but the “heroic deeds” of frontline medics fighting the coronavirus.

Since the discovery of the deadly contagion in Wuhan at the end of last year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has sought to model itself as the vanguard in the fight against COVID-19.

Outside China, Beijing has been the target of Western criticism over accusations that it covered up the initial outbreak, silencing early whistleblowers — including doctor Li Wenliang, who alerted colleagues to the virus in late December but was reprimanded by local authorities.

But inside the country, the CCP propaganda machine has relentlessly pushed a positive narrative.

China officially recorded around 85,000 cases and just over 4,600 deaths — a fraction of the world’s total — and has now largely brought its domestic virus spread under control.

The National Museum of China’s “Unity of Strength” showcases paintings, sculptures and calligraphy, all faithful to the socialist realism style, that depict what the regime says is its success in responding to the crisis.

Tens of millions of people were forced into a crippling lockdown when Wuhan and its surrounding province were shut down in late January.

As the virus gripped the nation, the power of the usually omnipotent and omnipresent President Xi Jinping seemed to waver, with the leader even disappearing from the state-run media for a couple of weeks. (AFP | Patrick Baert)

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