by N. Peter Kramer
Worried about repercussions, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell bowed to pressure from Beijing and softened last week EU criticism of China. An EEAS (European External Action Service) report obtained by the New York Times said, that ‘China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image’. ‘Both overt and covert tactics have been observed.’ The report also noted that Beijing had critisised France as slow to respond to the pandemic and had pushed false accusations that French politicians used racist slurs against the head of the WHO.
China moved quickly to block the document’s release and Borrell’s EEAS immediately pulled back. ‘The Chinese are already threatening with reactions if the report comes out’, the EU diplomat Lutz Gullner wrote in an email. According to another email, Esther Osorio, a senior advisor to Borrell, asked to revise the document ‘as we already see heavy pushback from CN’ (an abbreviation for China). Revisions to soften the report, on the verge of publication, were made. The sentence about China’s ‘global disinformation campaign’ was removed as was any mentioning of the dispute between China and France. Also, other language in the report was toned down.
The High Representative himself confirmed on Thursday that Chinese officials had ‘expressed their concerns’ over the leaked publication. Borrell also said that although Chinese officials had made their displeasure known, the EEAS did not feel as though it was under pressure from the complaints. Well, let us say, it is always a matter of perspective…