China accuses the US of media overreaction. Aspectum checks these claims with data

Aspectum Feb 28, 2020
China accuses the US of media overreaction. Aspectum checks these claims with data
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Aspectum, a cloud service for data analytics in both business and government GIS projects released its findings regarding the recent accusations of the US paying excessive attention to China in the context of coronavirus. Aspectum specialists analyzed news publications worldwide and created a visualized map with gathered data to check the grounds for these allegations.

On February 3, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed that the United States is “consistently creating and spreading fear” about coronavirus “which is a bad example.” To investigate the evidence for these claims, the researchers from Aspectum inspected all the relevant data by the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT). The obtained analysis examines publications by regions over the period from December 1 to January 31 in order to compare numbers of mentions of China in the US media before and after the outbreak of coronavirus. 

This research reveals that within this time there have been 266 thousand pieces of news about China worldwide, with 200 thousand from China itself. As for the US, 120 thousand international news updates were published in the country, and only 13 thousand were dedicated to China.

Also, the analysts studied how the number of news reports about China increased in the United States. In December, this number amounted to 3684 publications. However, in January it doubled and accounted for 7219 pieces. And during the first four days in February, there were already 2149 news stories published on the topic. 

Additionally, the report analyses the frequency of news publications dedicated solely to Wuhan. At the end of last year, there were only 17 publications about the city. But in 2020, this figure soared with 3495 and 1504 Wuhan-related news pieces in January and February correspondingly.

With the data available on the average tone(AvgTone) by GDELT, Aspectum features insights about the connotations of the news from China. This scoring is intended to explain the context of events, as well as their importance. The GDELT AvgTone ranges from -100(extremely negative) to +100(extremely positive) with 0 marking neutral tone. The most typical values range from -10 to +10. 

In December 2019, the average tone score of publications about China in the US was -1.5. The next month this value significantly dropped and amounted to -2.78. Currently, the score keeps plummeting and now constitutes about -3.5. Thus over the studied period, the tone of China-featured news totals -2.59. In contrast, the avgtone score on this matter in other countries is -2.41. 

As for the news particularly about Wuhan, in December 2019 the avgtone score was -2.75. In 2020, the value dropped with -3.8 and -3.7 in January and February respectively. The overall score of publications concerning Wuhan from the US within the period constitutes – 3.41, whereas the worldwide score is -3.57. 

Presented data suggests that the difference in the connotation between the media from the US and other countries is greatly insignificant. 

Aspectum also created a map that visualizes the gathered data. It reveals information on different levels. On the first one, a user can see the connections between news and places, as well as information about locations and links in the arcs. A widget that represents the arcs shows the exact time each piece of news was published. On the lower level, there’s information about the number of publications (vertical bars) on different territories and their tone (marked by colors). On the lowest level, users can find news points that display information about a specific publication. 

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a contagious virus that causes respiratory infection. The first complaints about flu-like symptoms were registered in Wuhan, central China on December 31. On January 7, Chinese medical authorities declared the outbreak of the 20-19-nCoV virus. As of now, there have been over 17 000 cases, of which 2300 are critical. Only on February 5, over seventy new cases were detected worldwide. The number of deceased amounts to 493, including the 2 deaths outside China — in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

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