What do COVID-19 deaths, supply chain disruptions, currency manipulation, intellectual property theft, human rights violations, pollution and saber rattling all have in common? Right now that would be China. I think that it’s well past time we had a serious come-to-Jesus meeting about the list of bad behaviors foisted on the rest of the world by the Chinese — particularly the Chinese government.
One of the more popular things that Donald Trump did during his presidency was to acknowledge and address China’s poor behavior at home and abroad. He may have done it in the most unsophisticated, petulant and counterproductive manner possible, but he did something. He gets credit for at least addressing the problem. Those so inclined to give Trump some credit on that account, at least in my view, are not entirely wrong.
Let’s go down the list. Whether you subscribe to the notion that the coronavirus behind the COVID-19 pandemic originated zoonotically or was released accidentally from a lab in Wuhan, it came from China either way. That makes China responsible for millions of premature deaths, massive economic upheavals and the current supply chain catastrophes that are tied to all of this.
Consider, if you will, what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot. If the United States had precipitated such a worldwide calamity I can all but guarantee that the call downs would be all day long and from all over the world — perhaps first and foremost from a chunk of our own media.
But China? So far mostly crickets.
I laughed out loud at a piece I recently came across a piece in the Wall Street Journal on an American scientist who had spent some time at the Wuhan Institute of Virology claiming that she never saw anything other than the most professional behavior and the highest biosecurity standards while she was there. “There could have been something amiss,” she admitted, “but I never saw anything that looked substandard.”
Of course she didn’t. That’s because everything that she saw there she was supposed to see. I’d be amazed if everything that this researcher did and saw was not carefully scripted, planned and monitored by the Chinese government.
I’m also amazed that anyone with the horsepower to get a Ph.D. in a technical field lacks the self-awareness to at least suspect that she might have been played.
Years ago, a colleague of mine — a scientist with grant money by the boatload and vast research experience — told me that he always assumed that every Chinese scientist he worked with was, in some manner, either reporting to or directly working for the Chinese government. I had almost no reason to doubt his wisdom then and even less so now.
It’s just as bad in the private sector, where the Chinese are responsible for copyright violations and intellectual property theft on massive scales. Good luck trying to address any of this through the Chinese judiciary either, which has recently claimed extraordinary reach in dealing with any and all of these issues anywhere in the world. Unless the rest of the world decides to play hardball, this practice has no end in sight.
Then there’s the currency manipulation and saber rattling. I worry about the former more than the latter simply because I think the Chinese government, at least in terms of military aggression, isn’t as stable and monolithic as it appears from the outside. There’s only so many people you can control by threat, coercion and the use of force. There are only so many ethnic minorities that you can cleanse without getting punched back in the face. China is already testing that limit.
On the plus side, China is a huge country with a lot going for it. The Chinese build skyscrapers, hospitals and public works in days instead of months. Chinese workers are productive and can turn out very high-quality work. It’s easy to find excellent craftsmanship in products made in China; you just have to value quality over low price.
China could be a great economic partner and world leader if it eschewed communism, authoritarian rule and quit ripping off the rest of the world’s intellectual property. A good start on all of that would be for them to come clean about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anytime before the next one would be just fine.