Our friend Michael Auslin explains the importance of pushing back against China’s effort to deflect blame for the origin and spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. The case for holding China accountable is founded in morality, global governance, and the need to protect against future pandemics.
The moral case stems from the Chinese government’s reprehensible response to the early outbreak of the pandemic there. Auslin reminds us:
Chinese officials knew of the seriousness of the pandemic as early as December, yet waited weeks to begin restricting travel, allowing millions of Wuhan residents to visit relatives elsewhere in the country and abroad for Lunar New Year celebrations, spreading the virus as they went. British scientists have argued that if Beijing had acted just three weeks earlier, it could have reduced the spread of the virus by 95 percent.
We also know that in the time before the outbreak’s seriousness became apparent outside China, the CCP destroyed laboratory samples and punished the brave doctors and citizens who tried to warn their countrymen and the world about the pathogen, while refusing foreign offers of help. We are almost certain that Beijing dramatically underreported the number of deaths in Wuhan, and is no longer reporting new infections in China.
China is morally culpable for the worldwide pandemic. We should never forget this.
From the standpoint of global governance, China was bound, as a party to the 2005 International Health Regulations, to “provide expedited, timely, accurate, and sufficiently detailed information to [the World Health Organization] about . . . potential public health emergencies” such as the Wuhan coronavirus. Instead of doing so in this case, the Red Chinese actively misled the WHO about the crucial fact that the pathogen is transmitted between humans.
In addition, Auslin points out, Beijing is reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in profits by selling equipment to panic-stricken governments abroad. Much of that equipment has proved to be useless and is being returned by Spain, the Czech Republic, and Malaysia, among other countries.
Those who believe that good global governance, however flawed, is an important tool for maintaining international peace and for contributing to development and growth should be appalled at how the CCP is undermining the liberal international architecture and suborning global institutions to its will. The normalization of such misbehavior cannot be allowed to stand.
Finally, there’s the matter of preventing future pandemics. If nations don’t understand that there will be repercussions for the kind of egregious conduct China has engaged in, then, as Auslin says, “our globalized world will suffer more coronavirus-style pandemics in the future.”
In this regard, it’s worth noting that China reportedly is reopening some of its “wet markets.” The wet market in Wuhan is thought to be ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak.
Gordon Chang has more on this development. He calls the reopening of the wet markets “an invitation to fuel a disease.”
I call failure to insist on China’s responsibility for this pandemic an invitation to future pandemics.