Beijing is successfully dodging culpability for its role in spreading the coronavirus.
While I don't expect the rest of the Liberal world to listen to Hamid en masse, it's possible that some will listen to a voice of reason.
The evidence of China’s deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record. ...
Some American commentators and Democratic politicians are aghast at Donald Trump and Republicans for referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus” and repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic. ... Yet in de-emphasizing where the epidemic began (something China has been aggressively pushing for), we run the risk of obscuring Beijing’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders.
China has a history of mishandling outbreaks, including SARS in 2002 and 2003. ... The end of last year was the time for authorities to act, and, as Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times has noted, “act decisively they did—not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat.”
This is what allowed the virus to spread across the globe. ... The government only instituted a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23—seven weeks after the virus first appeared. As events in Italy, the United States, Spain, and France have shown, quite a lot can happen in a week, much less seven. By then, mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that more than 5 million people had already left Wuhan.
This is an important reason why we should probably not trust Chinese numbers at all. Five million people fleeing a city of eleven million? Can you say, Out of control epidemic? Five million refugees from a highly infected city fanning out across the country, and we're supposed to believe it didn't spread everywhere?
... 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. ...” It was ignored.
The political scientist Andrew Michta has drawn controversy and accusations of racism for stating what any measured overview of the evidence makes clear. “The question about assigning agency and blame is pretty straightforward to answer,” he writes in The American Interest. The Chinese state, he says, is culpable.
But is this a time for blame? Yes, it is. ...
Those American critics who raise the racism canard are themselves inadvertently collapsing the distinctions between an authoritarian regime and those who live under it. Too many also seem comfortable drawing moral equivalencies between the Chinese regime and Donald Trump. This attitude is hard to take seriously. Trump didn’t block the media from reporting on the coronavirus; he did not disappear his critics. The nature of a regime matters. And this is why I, for one, am glad to live in a democracy, however flawed, in this time of unprecedented crisis.
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.