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China and Covid19

Viral in China: “Research Confirms: Covid19 Made by American Company”

In backing up their claim that an American company made Covid-19, Chinese state media confused The Daily Mail and a British misinformation site.

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One hashtag stating that an American company has created Covid19 was top trending on Weibo this week. The trending topic and related media reports are triggering more anti-Americanism online, although there are also many netizens who are blaming Chinese official media for publishing misinformation.

Over the past two days, the hashtag “Research Confirms: The Novel Coronavirus Was Made by an American Company” (#研究证实新冠病毒是美国公司制造#) has been trending on Weibo. The topic became big after an article by the news blogging account Tao Wen (韬闻) circulated on WeChat and was also republished by Chinese state outlets Global Times (环球网) and China Daily (中国日报).

The article first claims that the Russian army recently found evidence that biological labs were set up in Ukraine to produce biological weapons and that the U.S. was using bats to study the coronavirus, before switching to the topic of Americans being responsible for creating Covid19. The article’s main source is The Exposé, a British blog that previously falsely claimed that Covid-19 vaccines cause ‘a form of AIDS’ or that ‘82% of pregnancies end in miscarriage’ after Covid vaccination.

Both The Exposé and the Chinese article link back to a story published by The Daily Mail on March 3 of 2022 about the Covid virus containing a tiny chunk of DNA that allegedly matches the sequence patented by pharmaceutical company Moderna in 2016.

These articles all focus on a study that was first published in February by Ambati et al (2022) in Frontiers in Virology relating to the genetic makeup of SARS-Cov-2, which caused the COVID-19 pandemic. According to this study, there is a small portion (a 19-nucleotide sequence in a 30,000-nucleotides long genome) of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that shows a 100% reverse match in a proprietary sequence found in a United States patent that was filed on Feb. 4, 2016, under patent number 9,587,003. This leads back to a patent by ModernaTX, Inc. (US) that was filed for the purpose of the production of oncology-related proteins and peptides (link).

The study writes that “the reverse complement sequence present in SARS-CoV-2 may occur randomly but other possibilities must be considered,” with the authors describing the findings “highly unusual” and calling for “further investigations.”

In The Daily Mail, Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, responded to the study. Although he called it “interesting,” he also said that “sometimes these things happen fortuitously, sometimes it’s the result of convergent evolution (when organisms evolve independently to have similar traits to adapt to their environment).” He also commented that the findings do not contribute to the debate about whether Covid was engineered, adding: “I wouldn’t call it a smoking gun because it’s too small.”

According to the lengthy post published by The Exposé, an anonymous ‘concerned reader’ analyzes the study by Ambati et al and not only draws the conclusion that there is “100% biochemi proof that Covid19 was man made,” but also that evidence “100% confirms Moderna created Covid19.” These claims were also repeated in the article published by Global Times and China Daily on March 23, emphasizing that ‘British media’ published these findings and that even the media in Western countries are standing up against the U.S. government. The article writes that this ‘British media’ outlet is “The Daily Mail” (“每日邮报”), while sharing screenshots from the post by the questionable blog The Exposé.

 

“A clickbait article by an exaggerating blogger, but it still becomes a hot topic and everyone believes it”

 

The origins of Covid19 have been a political issue ever since early 2020 when speculation was first raised that the novel coronavirus may have emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan. A statement in The Lancet published in February of 2020 condemned any rumors on the virus origins, claiming that scientific research “overwhelmingly” concludes that Covid19 originated in wildlife, and peer-reviewed research from late 2021 further supported the theory that Covid19 originated at the seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan and did not come from a lab.

Chinese officials have repeatedly denied a possible leak from a Chinese laboratory and have emphasized their cooperation with international efforts to find the origins of the pandemic. In May of 2021, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that the U.S. was actually not genuinely interested in the scientific origin of the virus, but that its search for the origins of the novel coronavirus was merely about “political manipulation” and “blame-shifting” (read more here).

Nearly ten months later, however, it seems that Chinese officials are also starting to point more fingers and that state media outlets are mixing up science and speculation when it comes to presenting the latest research into the genetic makeup of SARS-Cov-2. Chinese media are also combining news stories related to speculations about the American responsibility for the pandemic and the supposed presence of American bio-labs in Ukraine, presenting them in a singular context (for example in this Weibo post).

These updated media narratives on the American role in the Ukraine conflict and the global Covid19 crisis add fuel to existing anti-American sentiments on Chinese social media.

“The world would be better off without the U.S.”, a typical comment says. “This is proof that the U.S. is the world’s tumor. We’ll only reach world peace once it collapses.”

“This makes me feel sick,” another commenter wrote, posting a (North Korean) anti-American propaganda poster. One other Weibo user (@elo_不太正常) posted a photoshopped image of the Statue of Liberty wearing a ‘corona’ crown and holding up a lethal potion.

At the same time, there are also many Chinese social media users who are pointing out that the “Research Confirms: The Novel Coronavirus Was Made by an American Company” hashtag and recent Chinese media reports have conflated some speculation with scientific facts, and have confused the British misinformation site The Exposé with the The Daily Mail (the URL of the first is ‘dailyexpose.uk’ while the latter is ‘dailymail.co.uk’).

Others also express worry about how fast disinformation can circulate online, especially when it is republished by the official media, which they also criticize: “The same media censoring news about the chained woman are now sensationalizing this news,” some say (for more on the chained woman, see here).

“Straightaway, you could see this was a clickbait article by a blogger who is exaggerating, but it still becomes a hot topic and everyone firmly believes it immediately,” one Weibo user writes, with another person saying: “Why is state media always forwarding other people’s writing?”

“Although the U.S. manipulates a lot, this media source is not one with authority, it has insufficient credibility,” other commenters write, as well as: “Is this source trustworthy? Please don’t incite feelings,” “This is just sensationalism.”

To read more about Covid19 and China, see our articles here.
To read more about ongoing tensions between China and the U.S., click here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources hyperlinked within text)

The Expose [‘by a concerned reader’]. 2022. “BREAKING: Official Biochemical and Statistical Evidence 100% confirms Moderna created Covid-19.” The Exposé, March 3 https://dailyexpose.uk/2022/03/03/evidence-confirms-moderna-created-covid-19/ [March 25, 2022].

Boyd, Connor. 2022. “Scientists claim Covid virus contains tiny chunk of DNA that ‘matches sequence patented by Moderna THREE YEARS before pandemic began.'” MailOnline, February 23 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10542309/Fresh-lab-leak-fears-study-finds-genetic-code-Covids-spike-protein-linked-Moderna-patent.html [March 25, 2022].

Ambati BK, Varshney A, Lundstrom K, Palú G, Uhal BD, Uversky VN and Brufsky AM (2022) MSH3 Homology and Potential Recombination Link to SARS-CoV-2 Furin Cleavage Site. Front. Virol. 2:834808. doi: 10.3389/fviro.2022.834808

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. 2L8

    March 25, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    Don’t matter. Global opinions were predetermined before Day 0 and will never change. Consider the history of HlV: forty years later and people still believe (a) hyumins got it from eating and sex0rs with monkeys. Fo0king L-O-L.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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China and Covid19

These Are China’s Ten Brand-New Stadiums That Will NOT Be Used for the 2023 Asia Cup

Billions were spent on the venues to host the Asia Cup, what will happen to them now that China will no longer be the host country?

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China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host leaves netizens wondering: “Will these newly built stadiums become Covid quarantine centers instead?” These are the ten stadiums that will not be used for next year’s Asia Cup.

News that China will no longer host the 2023 Asia Cup due to the Covid situation has left Chinese netizens wondering what will happen to the mega venues constructed especially for the event.

On Saturday, May 14, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) released a statement saying that, following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), they were informed by the CFA that it would not be able to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup due to circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event was planned to take place from June 16 to July 16, 2023, across ten Chinese cities: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Suzhou.

On Weibo, one popular post listed ten stadiums that were renovated or newly built to host the 2023 Asia Cup, adding the alleged (staggering) construction/renovation costs.

1. Xiamen Bailu Stadium: costs 3.5 billion [$515.5 million].
2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium: costs 3.2 billion [$470 million].
3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium: costs 2.7 billion [$397.7 million].
4. Xi’an International Football Center: costs 2.395 billion [$352.7 million].
5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium: costs 1.88 billion [$277 million].
6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium: costs 1.865 billion [$274.7 million].
7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena: costs 1.807 billion [$266 million].
8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium: costs 1.6 billion [$235.6 million].
9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium: the renovation cost 320 million [$47 million].
10. New Beijing Gongti Stadium: renovation cost 280 million [$41.2 million].

All of these stadiums were built or renovated for the Asia Cup on a tight schedule, as there was just a three-year timeframe from design to construction completion. In the summer of 2019, it was confirmed that China would host the Asia Cup.

Now that these venues will not be used for the Asia Cup, many netizens are wondering what will happen to them.

One of the most popular answers to that question was: “Perhaps they should be turned into makeshift hospitals [fangcang].”

Fangcang, China’s ‘square cabin’ makeshift Covid hospitals, are seen as a key solution in China’s fight against the virus. Together with mass testing and local lockdowns, the Fangcang have become an important phenomenon in China’s dynamic zero-Covid policy.

Since every city needs quarantine locations to be prepared for a potential local outbreak, many people half-jokingly say the venues would be more useful as Covid isolation points if they are not used for the Asia Cup anyway.

“So many great stadiums, what a waste,” some commenters write, with others suggesting the stadiums should be opened up for the people to use and enjoy.

In response to China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host, another popular comment said: “China has taken the lead in achieving Zero at the level of major sports events,” jokingly referring to the country’s Zero-Covid policy that currently impacts all aspects of society.

For others, the announcement that China would not host the Asia Cup came as a shock. Not necessarily because of the cancelation of the event itself, but because it made them realize that China’s stringent measures and Zero-Covid policy can be expected to continue well into 2023: “How did it get this far? I thought the country would open up after the general meeting,” one person wrote, referring to the Communist Party National Congress that is set for autumn 2022.

Another Weibo user wrote: “They finally said it. The Asia Cup will be hosted by another country because our Strong Country will continue to stay sealed, the money spent on building all these venues is going to go to waste.”

“The point that many people missed is that the Asian Cup is no longer being held in China because China refuses to hold the event in ‘full open mode’ as requested by foreign countries,” another commenter wrote. Some people praised the decision, calling it “courageous” for China to persist in handling the pandemic in its own way.

Others are hopeful that all of the money spent on the venues won’t be in vain, and that China can use these venues to still host the World Cup in the future.

Below is the list of the ten brand-new venues where the Asia Cup is not going to take place.

 

1. The Xiamen Bailu Stadium (厦门白鹭体育场)

The Bailu Stadium in Xiamen is an impressive construction with a steel structure similar to that of Beijing Bird’s Nest, and, like most of the stadiums in this list, it was designed especially for the 2023 Asia Cup.

Expected to be finished by late 2022, the building does not just offer a beautiful sea view, it is also fully multifunctional and has a floor area of 180,600 square meters and a capacity of 60,000 seats. It is the first professional soccer stadium in China that can switch from a soccer field to an athletic field. The inner and outer circles of the seating area can be moved to transform the stadium.

 

2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium (青岛青春足球场)

The Qingdao Youth Football Stadium, a high-standard soccer stadium with a capacity of 50,000 people, is the first major professional soccer stadium in Shandong Province.

The stadium, located in the city’s Chengyang District, started its construction in 2020 and the entire stadium with a floor area of 163,395 square meters, is expected to be finalized by late 2022.

 

3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium (重庆龙兴体育场)

Like most of the other stadiums on this list, the Chongqing Longxing Stadium started to be constructed in 2020 and the 60,000-capacity football stadium is expected to be finished in December 2022.

The design of the stadium is based on a twirling flame, meant to convey the hot image of Chongqing (the city of hotpot) and the burning Asian Cup football passion. Aerial photos published by state media in March of 2022 show that the construction of the roof and decorations has come to the final stage.

 

4. Xi’an International Football Center (西安国际足球中心)

The Xi’an International Football Center is a Zaha Hadid project, which is the same architects office to design prestigious buildings in China such as the Beijing Daxing International Airport or the Galaxy SOHO.

On their site, they write that the Footbal Centre, which started construction in 2020, is a 60,000-seat stadium in Xi’ans Fengdong New District. Besides the arena, the stadium will also provide recreational spaces for the city.

 

5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium (大连梭鱼湾足球场)

Located on the Dalian Bay, this is a spectacular new 63,000-capacity stadium that was, obviously, also meant to host the AFC Asian Cup in 2023 and to provide a home for the Dalian Professional Football Club.

An animation of the design for the Dalian Football Stadium can be viewed here.

 

6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium (成都凤凰山体育场)

The Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium consists of a a 60,000-seat stadium and an 18,000-seat standard arena. The large open-cable dome structure is reportedly the first of its kind in China.

Besides football, the venue will also be able to host other major tournaments, including ice hockey, badminton, table tennis, handball, and gymnastics.

 

7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena (上汽浦东足球场)

The Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, currently named SAIC Motor Pudong Arena, was supposed to be one of the stadiums used for the AFC Asian Cup, but it was not necessarily built for that purpose.

The 33,765-seat stadium, which is supposed to remind you of a Chinese porcelain bowl, is home to the football association Shanghai Port FC and was the first football-specific stadium designated for a club in China. Its construction, which started in 2018, was finished by late 2020.

 

8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium (苏州昆山足球场)

The Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium is the first professional soccer stadium in Jiangsu. With a total construction area of ​​135,000 square meters, the stadium can accommodate about 45,000 spectators.

The design of the building is inspired by the Chinese traditional “folding fan.” More pictures of the venue can be seen here.

 

9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium (天津滨海足球场)

The TEDA football stadium in Tianjin has been fully renovated and upgraded to host the 2023 Asia Cup. The stadium, build in 2004, originally could hold 37,450 people. The renovations of the original stadium started this year and the construction work was expected to take about six months.

 

10 . New Beijing Gongti Stadium (新北京工体)

Beijing’s old Workers’ Stadium or Gongti was closed in 2020 to be renovated and reopened bt December 2022, in time for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The Beijinger reported on the venue’s renovating process, with the stadium’s capacity increasing to 68,000, with the venue getting an all-new roof structure.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

For more articles on hot topics related to architecture in China, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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