China: History textbook's 'Covid war' mention sparks discussion

China: History textbook's 'Covid war' mention sparks discussion By A Robin - April 27, 2023
China School

China School

A history textbook for Chinese schoolchildren mentioning the country's Covid pandemic response for the first time has sparked discussion online.

Some are questioning whether the book's short description of the country's fight against Covid is truthful.

Chinese Communist Party leaders declared a "decisive victory" over the virus earlier this year.

The country has also been accused of not being transparent in sharing coronavirus data.

A short clip showing a paragraph of a history textbook for grade eight students on Douyin, China's domestic version of TikTok, started trending on Wednesday.

Uploaded by a user who appears to be a history teacher, the caption of the video post reads: "It's already written in the history books."

A copy of the book, published by the country's major textbook publisher People's Education Press, has been obtained by the BBC. The Covid reference appears in the section featuring "changes in social life".

Next to a paragraph describing increasing Chinese incomes and lifestyle changes since the country opened up in the 1970s, a text box mentions the "war on Covid".

"Our country adhered to the supremacy of the people and the life... protected people's life safety and health to the largest extent," it reads.

"We achieved major achievements in coordinating the prevention and control of the pandemic."

Soon after the start of the pandemic in 2020, China adopted a strict "zero-Covid" policy which allows authorities to implement lockdowns and force people into quarantine camps.

The majority of the restrictions were lifted in December after widespread protests in the country against the policy.

The textbook's narrative echoes Chinese leaders' declaration of victory over the virus, but many people have been asking whether it contains the whole truth.

"Is there any mention of how it ended?" a user commented on Douyin, where the topic "History textbook includes Covid response" has been viewed more than five million times.

"How come you have the cheek to write it in there?" wrote one commenter, while another said: "Every single character on that page seems to be mocking our painful three years."

Most people's comments also reflected the passing of time during the pandemic.

"We witnessed history," a top-liked comment under the clip says.

China claims it has one of the world's lowest Covid fatality rates. According to data from the World Health Organization, there have been 120,923 deaths in the country since 3 January 2020.

China has been widely accused of underreporting coronavirus deaths, despite evidence of hospitals and crematoriums being overrun.

By A Robin - April 27, 2023

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