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Xinjiang Garment Factory Linked to Fresh Outbreak

The coronavirus blossomed quickly from a little-known Wuhan-born contagion to a full-fledged international nightmare over the course of the past 10 months. In that time, global citizens have fingered China as not just the geographical nucleus of the virus, but a key player in the worldwide destruction it has caused.

A report Pew Research Center released this month revealed that negative views of China have skyrocketed in 2020, after years of growing unfavorable sentiment. Data taken from 14 countries across the globe shows that a majority of each displays a disdain for China, with Australia, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada reaching the highest levels of negative bias since the group began its survey a decade ago.

In the U.S., President Trump’s persistent blaming and shaming of the country and its role in the Covid outbreak have exacerbated Americans’ gloomy outlook, with negative opinions of China rising 13 points over the course of the past year alone. The proliferation of these views stems from the country’s perceived handling of the crisis, with a median of 61 percent of global respondents across the 14 nations surveyed saying China failed in its duty to contain it or protect the international community. This is a far higher number than any other country except for the U.S., where the death toll from the disease has surpassed 226,000, earning an even higher degree of international ire. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that the U.S. has not handled the pandemic well.

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New information from Reuters teasing the appearance of the dreaded second wave of the virus stands to underscore the world’s negative perception of China’s Covid impact. On Sunday, the publication broke news that China reported its highest number of asymptomatic infections in nearly seven months—stemming from a number of cases originating in an apparel factory in Northwest Xinjiang.

A 17-year-old female garment worker who showed no symptoms of the disease was found by health authorities on Saturday to be the source of the subsequent infection of 137 other individuals. The event has prompted an initiative to test 4.75 million people in the Kashgar area for the disease, said to be on track to be completed by Tuesday. While it is unknown how the teenager became infected, a Xinhua news outlet said that the new cases were traced to a garment factory where her parents worked.

The 17-year-old tested positive during routine testing across Xinjiang, and contact tracing is still underway. On Sunday, 20 new confirmed and 161 asymptomatic cases were reported across Mainland China—the highest number on record since the country began reporting daily case counts on April 1.

Relations between the U.S. and China have been plagued with challenges over the past two years, first stemming from a protracted trade war that saw many American brands’ China-made goods heavily taxed as the U.S. sought to punish the country for its misdeeds, from IP theft to charges of currency manipulation. But the Chinese government and the country’s businesses have also been charged, in recent months, with human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang province, where many garment factories, suppliers and cotton production sites are located.

The news of a fresh outbreak stemming from one of the region’s garment manufacturer is likely to further underscore allegations of mistreatment from U.S. officials invested in restricting trade with the country due to the alleged use of forced labor. And U.S. brands, which have been increasingly looking to diversify away from the country when it comes to sourcing, now have another reason to flee rather than sully their reputations through association.

What’s more, the country of roughly 1.4 billion has only reported 85,810 total coronavirus cases since the disease emerged in late 2019, along with 4,634 deaths. Those numbers are noticeably low when compared with other nations like the U.S., where the disease has killed hundreds of thousands. The figures have invited suspicion across the international community about China’s transparency in its reporting, and have deepened negative sentiment about the country’s seeming lack of accountability when it came to containing the virus’ spread.

China’s government remains concerned about the potential for another spike in infections like the one in February, as evidenced by efforts over the ensuing months to develop the capabilities for mass testing at a rapid rate. But a median of 78 percent of Pew survey respondents said that they had little or no confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping when it came to his handling of world affairs. That number has grown by double digits in almost every country surveyed, and increased by more than 20 percent in the U.S., Italy and Germany since last year.

Notably, China’s most negative reviews come from its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, Pew reported. More than 70 percent of respondents in Japan, South Korea and Australia say China has done a “bad job” handling the outbreak, and more than 40 percent double down on that assertion, calling the country’s handling of the virus “very bad.”