March 23, 2020

US and China

“Badly strained ties between the United States and China are deteriorating further with the two sides hurling harsh accusations and bitter name-calling over responsibility for the spread of the novel coronavirus.” AP News

Many on both sides are critical of the Chinese government:

China spread misinformation and censored non-state sanctioned information, even after the outbreak became widespread. The Public Security Bureau punished doctors, including the now deceased Li Wenliang, when they tried to share news about the coronavirus with the medical community… Finally, the Chinese government rejected international cooperation early on during the outbreak. Having American and WHO experts on the ground during the early weeks of the outbreak would have provided critical information on the epidemiology and the molecular virology of the virus, both necessary for developing a vaccine for COVID-19.”
Linda Zhang, American Enterprise Institute

“Many of China’s claims are easily refuted. China did not stop the virus from spreading; Beijing’s negligence allowed the outbreak to go global. China is not donating but selling ventilators, face masks, and other goods to Italy and Spain… While China charges the world for its assistance, it is, in fact, Trump’s United States that has already promised to provide up to $100 million of aid to China and other countries affected by the pandemic. And yet, despite all of this, more than a few Western thought leaders have aped Chinese falsehoods to critique Trump’s apparent failures and praise Xi’s purported successes…

“It’s evidently in Xi’s interest to play up Trump’s missteps and cast China as superior. And although it’s understandable that American thinkers want to criticize Trump’s poor response to the crisis, this does not excuse their being duped into spreading outright falsehoods and gifting China’s appalling authoritarian regime—the same one that recently revoked press credentials for numerous American journalists—praise of which it is certainly not deserving. Our ideological arbiters, as they critique Trump, must engage more thoughtfully with the facts to avoid swallowing and spreading Chinese propaganda.”
Charles Dunst, Slate

“In the winter of 2002–2003, the deadly SARS coronavirus exploded out of China’s ‘wet-blood’ wildlife markets. SARS infected over 8,000 people worldwide and killed almost 800. Yet post-crisis, China laxly enforced bans on the offending markets, only to permit them to flourish soon thereafter. Today’s COVID-19 is the deadly and avoidable legacy of China’s recklessness

“Over the years, the self-appointed rulers of China have escaped not just domestic, but international liability for their wrongdoing. Over the years, their thefts of intellectual property, wrongful trade practices, ruthless domestic oppression, support of rogue regimes, proliferation of nuclear technology, and unlawful conduct in the South China Sea have been excused or effectively ignored… Prevention and simple justice require that Beijing accept consequences facing any other wrongdoer — including an end to dangerous practices and extending at least partial compensation to those so grievously harmed outside China.”
Lewis Libby and Logan A. Rank, National Review

“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…

“After the crisis, whenever after is, the relationship with China cannot and should not go back to normal. Nothing, in any case, will go back to normal after the sheer scale of destruction becomes clear. Of course, the rest of the world will have to live with the Chinese leadership as long as it remains in power. But this pandemic should, finally, disabuse us of any remaining hope that the Chinese regime could be a responsible global actor. It is not, and it will not become one.”
Shadi Hamid, The Atlantic

It’s worth stressing that “we do not blame the Chinese people for the fact that a novel coronavirus cropped up in Wuhan. We blame the government in Beijing for making the problem dramatically worse by trying to cover it up, for its ridiculous efforts to try to shift blame for the epidemic onto the United States and others, and for its ongoing attempts to veil its own shameful incompetence by expelling journalists from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal… This epidemic will subside. But we will not forget Beijing’s irresponsibility, nor its cowardice and dishonesty in the early days of the outbreak.”
The Editors, National Review

“The Chinese people are heroes in this story. Chinese doctors, researchers and journalists risked their lives and even died fighting the virus and warning the world… Our beef is not with the Chinese people; our problem is with the CCP — its internal repression, its external aggression, and its malign influence in free and open societies… we should avoid generalizations, clearly distinguish between the Chinese government and the Chinese people, and take care not to alienate ethnically Chinese citizens at home.”
Josh Rogin, Washington Post

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

Before condemning the decision of Chinese officials in early January to dismiss the threat of a looming epidemic, remember that at that time the coronavirus was not reported to have caused any deaths. Contrast this with, say, the United States today: Despite having had a free flow of information for weeks and witnessed thousands of deaths in China as evidence, parts of America’s political establishment — including at the White House — have pushed a disinformation campaign to downplay the risk.”
Ian Johnson, New York Times

“Even though American laboratories are beginning to produce larger quantities of Covid-19 tests, they are behind China’s capacity to do so and are unlikely to be able to provide much medical aid to other countries in the short term. In contrast, the Jack Ma Foundation has sent 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks to the U.S., which will be distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

“Elsewhere in the world, China’s ability to provide much-needed medical aid stood in contrast to the lack of help from Western nations struggling with the virus themselves… The Jack Ma Foundation also announced that it would send ‘20,000 testing kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 protective suits and face shields’ to every country in Africa.”
Joe Penney, The Intercept

“Historically, the international community would have looked to the United States for leadership, and we would have been out front, establishing standards, best practices for containment, working out common approaches to travel, identifying medical shortfalls, sharing information on vaccine development and trials and developing stimulus packages… [Today] China is working with others and acting like a global leader and we are not. Others will likely forget that a lack of Chinese transparency early on (not to mention a system that punishes reporting bad news) almost certainly added to the severity of the pandemic globally. But there’s no denying that China is now cooperating with countries to contain the spread… We should be concerned that, after the pandemic, the Chinese may further act to fill the vacuum of world leadership. Their actions won’t just harm U.S. interests but also will threaten human rights values and open societies more generally.”
Dennis Ross, Washington Post

From the Right

“The world’s dependence on China should be responsibly reduced… Decades of open borders, unceasing intercontinental travel, study abroad, just-in-time inventory systems, and the like have created unexpected vulnerabilities in populations and economies thanks to unfettered openness. To worry about such weaknesses is not to adopt a Luddite reactionary stance, but to try and salvage the bases of the post-World War II global economic architecture... Washington must ensure that China does not capture the global semiconductor chip-making industry, which is a priority for Beijing. To surrender the crown jewel of the digital economy would put America in a position of permanent dependence vis-à-vis China.”
Michael Auslin, RealClearPolitics

“China supplies more than 90 percent of antibiotics used [in the US]. It also produces many other drugs and biologics that Americans depend on, including heparin, HIV/AIDS medications, chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease… It’s one thing to depend on China for cheap T-shirts and sneakers. It’s another to depend on a brutal communist dictatorship for life-saving drugs and the communications infrastructure that will undergird the 21st-century economy…

“The Chinese government’s complicity in the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity for the United States to reevaluate its economic ties to Beijing and develop alternative supply chains for medicines and critical technology. China’s lies about a virus have us hurtling toward a recession. It is time to immunize our economy and national security from our dependence on a deceitful regime.”
Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post

“As the dust settles, the United States should be taking a hard look at streamlining our federal and state regulatory framework, tax structure, and all other outstanding obstacles in order to encourage U.S. businesses to come back home. If, once this crisis is over, we do not have at least a blueprint for rebuilding America’s manufacturing base and restoring our ability to provide critical supplies to the country regardless of the actions of our adversary, a decisive opportunity will have been squandered.”
Andrew A. Michta, American Interest

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