The coronavirus pandemic is not going to rob China of its DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles or the J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth bombers. But it will most certainly take away a far more potent weapon: Global trust.
In the last four months, it has suppressed facts, lied, silenced whistleblowers, bullied its citizens and the world community, and blamed its rival superpower America with wild conspiracy theories involving biological weapons. This despite being the originator and chief perpetrator of this apocalyptic outbreak.
There has already been nearly half a million confirmed cases and around 19,000 deaths worldwide. China owns up to 81,218 cases 3,281 deaths so far, which many nations and experts find hard to believe. How can the epicentre of Covid-19 — which is 30 times larger and 23 times more populous than Italy — have half the deaths as Italy?
In spite of that, the United Nations has not asked China to allow independent nspections and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is busy praising it.
But once the dust settles, Italy and the rest of Europe, Iran, United States, India, Australia and many other countries who are feeling the corona sting will find it very difficult to believe China or do business with it like earlier.
China’s soft power is at its lowest, restricted to its apologists in the media, academia and tiny Left-liberal cabals whose hate for Donald Trump supersedes all reason. Their dislike of rising nationalism worldwide makes them try to whitewash China’s wrongs, while ironically China represents truly autocratic, ruthless and amoral nationalism and neo-imperialism.
China’s began its series of mistakes and deceit over epidemics 17 years ago. After the 2003 outbreak of SARS, it promised to ban its “wet markets” where exotic animals were being slaughtered for food.
The Chinese eat bats and pangolins because of superstitious health fads. So, these markets become vectors for transmitting diseases animals to humans. Just a year after the SARS swept East Asia, China quietly let loose these wet markets again despite repeated scientific warnings.
It is chilling that a nation that aspires to be the biggest superpower can so nonchalantly put the entire world at risk.
From as early as November 2019, men and women in Wuhan started coming into medical facilities with pneumonia-like symptoms. By December, Chinese doctors were flagging the danger of a new epidemic with exponentially rising cases, most likely flowing from the local Huanan seafood market and attributed to eating nearly extinct pangolins which may have been infected by bats.
On 25 December, medical staff in two Wuhan hospitals were quarantined with viral pneumonia, a clinching evidence of human-to-human transmission. But from December-end to mid-January, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission and other Chinese authorities kept stating that there was no evidence that the virus was getting transferred from person to person. Vital time was lost, which could have saved thousands of lives later.
Not content with lying, China pitilessly muzzled doctors who blew the whistle on the disease. Late December, a physician at the Wuhan Central Hospital Li Wenliang warned his colleagues about the disease.
Angered Chinese authorities summoned Li and made him sign a statement regretting his “misdemeanour” and promising not to commit “unlawful acts”. At least seven other doctors were arrested on similar charges. Nobody knows what happened to them. Li went back to work, contracted the disease himself, and died in February.'
On 2 January, the Wuhan Institute of Virology reportedly mapped the genome of the virus but did not announce the breakthrough till a week later.
On 3 January, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention offered to send a team, but China declined. It gave permission to a WHO team to visit two weeks later on 16 January.
On 8 January, the New York Times chimes in with China’s view: “There is no evidence that the new virus is readily spread by humans, which would make it particularly dangerous, and it has not been tied to any deaths.”
WHO goes on to advise against travel or trade restrictions to China.
Left-leaning media outlets like The Guardian even praised China for sending “planeloads” of ventilators to Italy, cleverly concealing the fact that Italy’s hospitals paid for those and China was merely honouring the purchase orders.
On 20 January, nearly two months after noticing the outbreak, China acknowledged the human-to-human transmission. On 23 January, it took the first steps to quarantine Wuhan.
All the while WHO’s director-general continued to praise China’s handling of the outbreak, his organisation struck down a proposal to declare Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and the Mayor of Florence urged Italians to hug the Chinese.
When the Trump administration started asking tough questions, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece Xinhua warned of unleashing pharmaceutical export controls following which America will be “plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus”.
China is still trying to brazen it out by saying the outbreak has passed over and it is recovering, but the world finds it difficult to believe the facts and figures coming out of Beijing.
Its economy lies in tatters. Goldman Sachs forecasts China’s GDP to shrink by 9 percent in the first quarter. Wuhan, its buzzing industrial hub, lies paralysed. Robert Bosch GmbH, the world’s largest car-parts maker, shut two factories. Honda and Nissan have also closed their facilities in Wuhan. Key coastal export provinces are in shutdown too.
The international community must take this tragedy to bell the cat. It must sit China down and press it to give up bullying and deceit and bring in more transparency.
Michael Brendan Dougherty in National Review bluntly sums it up on China: “COVID-19 is the greatest act of geopolitical arson in six decades. Every journalist and expert praising the pyromaniac for attempting to save himself, blame others, and cover his tracks has made himself contemptible.”
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Updated Date: Mar 25, 2020 15:47:24 IST