History textbook for Chinese schoolchildren mentioning ‘Covid war’ sparks debate

Representational image: Eighth grade history book has included China’s ‘war’ on Covid  (AFP via Getty Images)
Representational image: Eighth grade history book has included China’s ‘war’ on Covid (AFP via Getty Images)

A history textbook for school students in China has mentioned the country's "war" on Covid-19 for the first time, triggering a debate on the administration's response to the pandemic.

The Xi Jinping government earlier this year declared a "decisive victory" over the coronavirus, just months after facing rare mass protests over stringent lockdown measures.

A video showing a paragraph from a history textbook for eighth-grade students began trending Wednesday on Douyin, China's domestic version of TikTok.

The user, who appears to be a history teacher, shared the video with the caption: "It's already written in the history books."

The textbook published by People's Education Press was obtained by the BBC.

According to the outlet, the reference to Covid appears in the section of the book featuring "changes in social life".

The "war on Covid" is mentioned in a text box next to a paragraph describing increasing Chinese incomes and lifestyle changes since the 1970s, BBC reported.

"Our country adhered to the supremacy of the people and the life... protected people's life safety and health to the largest extent," the book read. "We achieved major achievements in coordinating the prevention and control of the pandemic."

It mentions that China adopted a strict "zero-Covid" policy which allowed authorities to implement lockdowns and force people into quarantine camps.

The textbook parrots the Chinese leader's declaration of victory over the coronavirus, even though the critics have accused the Communist government of hiding the actual data.

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

China claims it has one of the world’s lowest fatality rates related to Covid, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the number of deaths to be 120,923 since January 2020.

In December last year, China began scrapping its lockdown measures, which were touted as one of the most ruthless in the world. It follows the largest show of public dissent against the ruling Communist Party in more than 30 years by residents fed up with constant testing, quarantines, travel restrictions, rolling lockdowns and business closures.

Meanwhile, China said it will no longer require travellers entering the country to show a negative PCR test for the coronavirus from Saturday.

Travellers can instead show a negative antigen test result taken within 48 hours before boarding, foreign ministry Mao Ning told reporters.

“To further facilitate cross-border travel, China is taking new steps to refine pre-departure testing requirements guided by the principle of ensuring safe and orderly travel and keeping the measures science-based and well-targeted,” Ms Mao said.

The National Health Commission on Wednesday said the number of Covid cases in early April had dropped to the lowest level since December.