Welcome back to Axios China. Today we've got Beijing's PR blitz, another loss for Taiwan, coronavirus around the world and much more.
Today's newsletter is 1,421 words, a 5-minute read.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
As China begins to get its coronavirus outbreak under control, authorities are going on the offensive to rewrite the narrative that the global epidemic is Beijing's fault.
Why it matters: We're getting a glimpse of how China's formidable propaganda apparatus can obscure the truth and change narratives abroad, just as it can at home. The stakes are high — for the world and China's standing in it.
What's happening: Chinese diplomats are taking to Twitter and email, pushing talking points that deflect blame from Beijing and instead praise its response.
What's at stake: The world is facing a potential global economic recession that can trace its roots in part to specific decisions by Chinese authorities. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to prevent that narrative from taking hold.
Chinese authorities are pushing the following talking points:
1. The coronavirus may not have originated in China.
2. China's response bought time for the rest of the world.
What to watch for: "The worse the coronavirus response in the foreign country, the more effective [Beijing's] narrative is going to be," said Bishop.
Credit: Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center
The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, which maintains an interactive map tracking the number of coronavirus cases worldwide, has changed how it refers to Taiwan, Axios has learned. Instead of "Taiwan," the map now uses "Taipei and environs."
Why it matters: The change tracks closely with how the Chinese government prefers to refer to Taiwan, which it views as part of Chinese territory.
The big picture: Over the past several years, the Chinese government has increasingly sought to control how international organizations and companies refer to Taiwan, insisting they change the wording to align more closely with the Chinese Communist Party's "one-China policy."
Taiwan's government has said it will lodge a protest to JHU.
Go deeper: China's push to erase Taiwan
A former domestic abuser who now volunteers to help others stop their abusive behavior. Photo: Felix Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Chinese activists say domestic violence cases have risen dramatically as people across much of the country have been quarantined during the coronavirus outbreak.
Why it matters: The trend highlights poor enforcement of China's new domestic violence law and the rise of state-sanctioned patriarchy under a Communist Party that once stood for radical gender equality.
What's happening: “The epidemic has had a huge impact on domestic violence,” Wan Fei, the founder of an anti-domestic violence nonprofit in Jingzhou, a city in Hubei province, told Sixth Tone, a news outlet in China.
China passed its first domestic violence law in 2016, after years of advocacy by activists.
But the law has been poorly enforced, in part because of the Chinese Communist Party's growing belief that political stability, its top obsession, begins in the home.
Go deeper: Read the full story
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
After intense criticism from the U.S. government, the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is doubling down on its policy of blocking Twitter accounts that criticize its policy of excluding Taiwan from membership, according to a letter viewed by Axios.
Why it matters: ICAO's attempts to suppress criticism on an issue that China's leaders consider sensitive have raised fears that the organization is under Beijing's sway.
The big picture: China views Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory and has worked for decades to isolate it diplomatically and to shut it out of membership in international organizations like the United Nations.
What's happening: In late January, as the coronavirus had begun to spread in Asia, ICAO came under fire for blocking Twitter accounts belonging to researchers, analysts and congressional staffers who said ICAO should reconsider its exclusion of Taiwan.
The ICAO's letter responding to Congress, dated Feb. 11 and signed by Salvatore Sciacchitano, president of the ICAO Council, doubled down on the agency's new social media guidelines.
What they're saying: The letter underscored ICAO's commitment to freedom of expression and the "healthy exchange of information."
The expert take: "As an international organization, they’re supposed to be serving all the people. This doesn’t seem like a reasonable approach," Anthony Arend, a professor of government and foreign service at Georgetown University, told Axios.
China aids Italy: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly told Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio that Beijing was willing to donate 100,000 high-tech masks to Italy, 20,000 protective suits and 50,000 diagnostic tests.
University closings: Harvard, Northeastern University's Seattle campus, Stanford and Vanderbilt are some of the U.S. universities that have temporarily canceled classes, with some moving classes online.
Forever surveillance: "The new normal": China's excessive coronavirus public monitoring could be here to stay (The Guardian)
Photo: New China TV
A Mr. Bean impersonator, British national Nigel Dixon, has lived through two months of quarantine in Wuhan and has documented his experiences online.
Dixon also throws in a few apparently earnest lines that sound similar to Beijing's own talking points:
Watch one of Dixon's videos, which was posted to a YouTube channel affiliated with Xinhua, China's state news agency.