Breath Test

Becker, Jasper
May 2003
New Republic;5/12/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 18, p19
Focuses on the Chinese government's response to an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). As they patrol, the police and citizen brigades enforcing SARS-related public health code compliance are doing more than simply protecting China from sinking deeper into the SARS epidemic that has spread across the country. They are signaling that, faced with perhaps its most serious crisis since 1989, the Communist leadership is not, as some foreign observers have suggested, becoming more transparent. In fact, the Beijing, China regime actually is falling back upon old-style campaigns of propaganda and control. Since April, 2003, as the true extent of the SARS epidemic has become clear, some Western publications have expressed the hope that the disease will prompt the Chinese government to open up. The party also has maintained tight control of the media during the SARS crisis, using the press as an old-style propaganda organ. Though two high officials were fired, the regime has effectively prevented the media from reporting the true spread of SARS. China been supporting its propaganda with "patriotic" mass-mobilization campaigns similar to those in the 1950s, as well as with control of professional organizations. Some Chinese officials have suggested in recent days that SARS will force them to become more cooperative with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international bodies in the future. Yet the officials stop short of suggesting that the WHO would be allowed to set up health-monitoring groups in China separate from party-controlled professional organizations.


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