If, like me, you’re old enough to remember the Cold War years, you know how the Soviet government covered up the true horror of the Chernobyl disaster. During the space race (before I was born, thank you very much), the Soviets made less of a deal about their failures – including the deaths of cosmonauts – than they trumpeted their successes.
So it stands to reason that the authoritarian, Communist Chinese government would do the same thing when it comes to COVID-19. (Heck, let’s call it the Wuhan flu.)
We know for a fact that the Chinese downplayed the virus and its effects when it was merely a Chinese phenomenon, going so far as to detain health officials who spoke out about the dangers of the disease.
We also know now that some Chinese medical experts warned about a coronavirus-type disease that could start in China and spread quickly.
As The Atlantic reports:
If that weren’t enough, we can plumb recent history for an even more damning account. In a 2019 article, Chinese experts warned it was “highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” In a 2007 journal article, infectious-disease specialists published a study arguing that “the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” It was ignored.
China, on the other hand, is playing the “racism and xenophobia” card against those who use terms like “Wuhan flu” or “Chinese virus,” a tactic it has used for quite some time, even long before COVID-19 was a concern.
We should all assign blame where it’s due: the Chinese. They let things get way out of hand, waiting seven weeks to lock down the Wuhan region. By that time, some 5 million people from that area had spread throughout China and across the globe.
Now, the Chinese Communists are trolling Americans for pointing out that China is at fault. As Shadi Hamid writes at The Atlantic:
But is this a time for blame? Yes, it is. Accounting for responsibility when a disaster happens—particularly one likely to devastate entire countries, leaving thousands dead—is not beside the point, particularly as Chinese officials move to take advantage of the crisis and launch a disinformation campaign claiming that the U.S. Army introduced the virus.
Well before the new coronavirus spread across American cities, the Chinese regime was already rather creatively trolling U.S. publications, expelling American journalists, and “weaponizing wokeness” over anything it perceived as critical of China’s role in mishandling the epidemic. To hear Chinese spokespeople use the language of racism and prejudice is somewhat surreal, considering this is a regime that has put more than 1 million Muslims and ethnic minorities in “reeducation” camps.
Honestly, we shouldn’t expect any less from an authoritarian government, but no matter what happens from here, we should acknowledge that China is at fault, no matter how much they try to dodge the blame.
Our relationship with China should reflect this admission as well. As Hamid notes, we should give up “any remaining hope that the Chinese regime could be a responsible global actor.”
No, we shouldn’t treat Asian-Americans or Asians in America any differently because of this fact, but we also shouldn’t pretend that the Communist Chinese are innocent in any way for what has now become a pandemic. If only they would fess up to it themselves.