BEIJING -- While most of the world's economies are struggling as the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated businesses and forced countless people out of work, China -- the origin of the new coronavirus -- has reported record growth.
China's factory activity grew at its fastest pace in over three years in November, official data shows.
The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a key gauge of manufacturing activity in China, has largely rebounded following strict measures to curb the virus early in the year, coming in at 52.1 last month.
The PMI dropped to 35.7 in February as the world came to terms with the global pandemic.
In March, the PMI shot up to 52.0 as Chinese factories ramped up production and sales of personal protective equipment (PPE) -- much of which has been proven to be shoddy and ineffective.
In the following months, the PMI hovered between 50 and 51 -- above the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction -- and reached 51.4 in October.
China is expected to have the only major economy to record positive growth this year.
Profiting from the pandemic
China, in an attempt to profit off the pandemic, launched a huge effort to produce PPE, such as masks, to meet shortages amid the outbreak. More than 73,000 companies registered as mask makers in the first half of the year -- including more than 36,000 new companies in April alone -- as prices and demand soared.
Between March and May, China exported more than 50 billion face masks -- a 10-fold increase from total production last year, according to analysts.
As part of this effort, Chinese authorities forced Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region to work in PPE factories, according to a video report by the New York Times, which cited evidence found in hundreds of videos, photos and government documents.
The programme is part of an effort by Beijing that during the past few years has sent more than a million Muslims into indoctrination camps.
Beijing sells the masks internationally or uses them as donations in a scheme described by analysts as "mask diplomacy" to deflect blame for the virus --though this gambit has backfired in some cases because of shoddy quality.
In one case, a Chinese firm sold half a million "fake" COVID-19 masks meant to protect doctors. The company made two false claims: that the masks met the N95 standard for medical personnel working with coronavirus patients and that they were officially certified.
In recent weeks, the Chinese regime has added "vaccine diplomacy" -- using the promise of an effective COVID-19 vaccine as a diplomatic bartering chip -- in regions it deems vital to its interests.
China as 'hero'
The Chinese regime is actively pushing the narrative of its "heroic deeds" in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic despite its role in spreading the pandemic and covering up its role in the crisis.
As part of that effort, the National Museum of China in August opened up an exhibit, "Unity of Strength", which showcased paintings, sculptures and calligraphy that depict what the regime says is its success in responding to the crisis.
Chinese state media also have been intent on showing the world that the country has moved on from the coronavirus pandemic, but countries continuing to suffer under strict lockdowns due to COVID-19 -- which originated and spread in China -- are looking on at this media campaign in exasperation.
Earlier in 2020, Chinese authorities, knowing a deadly outbreak was afoot, said nothing for almost a week, allowing the virus to take hold in Wuhan and spread across the world, while deliberately suppressing or destroying evidence of the outbreak.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Beijing has been actively attempting to deflect criticism of its role in the coronavirus pandemic by promoting conspiracy theories and has been caught flooding the news and social media with blatant disinformation about the virus.