As tensions rise between the United States and China over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state-funded Chinese news agency Xinhua escalated the dispute with an animation video that mocks the United States’s faltering response to the disease. Although it’s amusing, the video is the latest in the propaganda war between two governments that have both been criticized by their citizens for mishandling the crisis.
Titled “Once Upon a Virus…” the satirical video features a back-and-forth between two Lego-style characters in cartoonish voices: a masked Chinese terracotta warrior representing the People’s Republic of China (flanked by a team of Lego medical workers in head-to-toe PPE), and an unmasked Statue of Liberty representing the US.
Launched in 2010 as a propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party, the English-language China Xinhua News Network Corporation (CNC) was created to advocate the government’s official policies to overseas audiences. Its latest viral video follows the timeline of the pandemic from December of 2019 until now, at every step touting China’s supposedly stellar response to the outbreak.
In December, the Chinese figure says, the country reported “strange pneumonia cases” to the World Health Organization (WHO), countering reports that China attempted to cover up the coronavirus outbreak. “Roger that!!” a symbol of the WHO confirms.
“We discovered a new virus,” the Chinese warrior then informs its American counterpart. “So what?” the Statue of Liberty replies scoffingly. “It’s dangerous,” the warrior responsibly warns. “It’s only a flu,” the unphased statue insists — sound familiar?
The rapid exchange continues, poking fun at the US’s initial recommendation to not wear masks, and calling stay-at-home orders a violation of human rights.
The warrior then brags about building a temporary hospital in 10 days. “Show off,” the statue says dismissively.
When the warrior alerts the statue that the pathogen is airborne, the latter quotes President Trump’s previous theory that the virus will “magically go away in April.”
Toward the end of the video, the Statue of Liberty appears sickened with the virus: Its face turns purple and it depends on a hospital IV. But yet, the American figure accuses China of failing to warn the rest of the world of the virus and of providing false data on its origins, in line with the Trump administration’s claims against the country. The Statue of Liberty finally announces that it will cut funding to the WHO.
“We did nothing for three months,” it says. “And because the WHO agrees with China, we’re cutting funding for the WHO.”
“Are you listening to yourselves?” the warrior asks in disbelief, surrounded by medical workers in hazmat suits.
“We are always correct, even though we contradict ourselves,” the stubborn American figure replies.
The warrior concludes with the punchline: “That’s what I love best about you Americans. Your consistency.”