The Chinese government, while congratulating itself on its extremely “extraordinary” success in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the quick recovery of its economy, is attempting to control and channel an investigation by the World Health Organization into the origin of the virus, first reported in Wuhan in December 2019.

While much of the world sees 2020 as an annus horribilis — a horrible year — in China’s assessment it was a wonderful year. As the official Xinhua News Agency said in a New Year’s Day commentary, 2020 was “an extraordinary year in history that saw the COVID-19 pandemic bringing an unprecedented challenge to mankind as well as a fast-evolving international architecture” and, as 2021 begins, “China is standing on a new historical starting point.”

That is to say, China’s position in the world has been much elevated as a result of the pandemic, despite criticism that its early missteps and cover-ups made possible the spread of the virus around the world.