Wuhan Virus: China must be held accountable – Rajesh Singh

Xi Jinping

Rajesh SinghIf China has nothing to hide, why does it not allow a team of independent, global experts—including those from the friendly WHO—to visit Wuhan Province and study the issue? – Rajesh Singh

US President Donald Trump might have a credibility crisis, with people even within his party and band of loyalists refusing to believe in everything that he says. That skepticism apart, it would be unwise to dismiss across the board his accusations against China over the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic which has, incidentally, hit the US the hardest. We may consider as outlandish the allegation that China deliberately unleashed the virus from one of its laboratories, but it is very possible that the virus escaped from the laboratory as a result of grave negligence. And that the Chinese authorities, having realized the blunder, worked overtime to camouflage it through coercive means domestically and diplomatic measures internationally.

The US State of Missouri has sued China on COVID-19 mishandling. The lawsuit alleges that Beijing suppressed information, arrested whistleblowers, and initially denied the contagious nature of the disease. All of these led to “irreparable damage” to countries globally. The lawsuit mentions the Chinese government, the ruling Chinese Communist Party, and some Chinese officials and institutions as the accused. An American lawyer has filed a $20 trillion lawsuit against China for the “creation and release” of the Coronavirus, which has been used by Beijing as a biological weapon.

And it’s not just the US which has demanded compensation from China. Even countries that have been at odds with the US in recent months have gone ahead to claim damages for the spread of the pandemic. For instance, Germany presented China with a 130 billion pound bill, the breakup of which includes losses incurred in tourism, to the German film industry, to the German airline Lufthansa, and to the country’s small businesses. Both France and the UK have expressed strong disapproval over China’s handling of the pandemic information in the early stages. A UK-based Conservative think-tank has explored 10 points on which China can be sued for “trillions of dollars for its initial cover-up of the Coronavirus pandemic….”

President Trump’s demand—and a similar one by other countries, both in the West and elsewhere—for a fair, open and independent investigation inside China into the origins and spread of the virus, is valid. Indeed, it’s necessary, because Beijing cannot be believed. So far, China’s response has been along expected lines. It has presented itself as a victim, pointing out that thousands of its citizens in Wuhan, where the virus originated, had lost their lives. Besides, the Chinese economy had been badly hit by the tragedy, and its impact would be felt for years to come. China has also sought to present a “humane” face in the midst of the tragedy (in a bid to divert global attention from its wrongdoing) by showing alacrity in supplying medical equipment to countries). But this has boomeranged as the medical kits came with a heavy price tag and, worse, they were found defective—some countries returned the kits and cancelled the orders they had placed with China. India was one of the victims of this so-called humane outreach. It also promised an additional $30 million to the World Health Organisation (WHO) after US President Trump announced a cut in his country’s funding to the UN agency.

The questions China needs to answer

If China has nothing to hide, why does it not allow a team of independent, global experts—including that from the friendly WHO—to visit Wuhan Province and study the issue? Why did it not discontinue international flights to and from Wuhan when it stopped all flights from Wuhan to the rest of China and vice versa when the disease first broke out? Why has it clamped down on new research by Chinese scientists after reports emerged from its experts which highlighted the dangerous work being conducted on bat virus? Why has it not shared any live virus samples with the world? The allegation is that it destroyed the samples. If that is indeed true, then why did it do so? Why has China not behaved as a responsible nation in the context of this virus pandemic?

Not only has Beijing been less than transparent in its behaviour, but it has also been vicious in its attack on nations that have demanded accountability from it. Take the case of Australia, which has a robust trade relationship with China. It called for WHO member-nations to demand an independent inquiry into the spread of the pandemic from China. In return, China openly threatened it with economic retaliation. The Chinese Ambassador to Australia said his country could consider boycotting Australian products if Canberra continued with its “anti-China” posture. This is typical of the Chinese arm-twisting tactic which has been refined over decades and integrated into its state policy.

Beijing’s shocking but not surprisingly irresponsible behaviour offers an opportunity to the global community to reset its economic relations with the Asia giant. It would be stupid to believe that China can be isolated globally in trade matters. But the West can show the way to downscaling those ties. Meanwhile, global efforts must be sustained to seek a probe into the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. And the best place to begin the inquiry is China.

Where does India stand in this controversy? As always, it is trying to find some middle ground. It does not want to antagonize Beijing, but it also does not want to be seen as backing an opaque regime. New Delhi, in its heart of hearts, realizes the blunders that China has committed, which led to the spread of the disease, taking a heavy toll on India as well. But it will not openly call a spade a spade. But at least it can add its voice, and loudly at that, to the demand for a global investigation without prejudging China. – PGurus, 7 May 2020

Rajesh Singh is a Delhi-based senior political commentator and public affairs analyst.

Wuhan Virus


3 Responses

  1. Robert O'Brien

    “Five Plagues From China In 20 Years. Got To Stop” : US Top Security Advisor – NDTV – Press Trust of India – World – May 13, 2020

    Washington: As many as five plagues have come out of China in the last 20 years and at some point it has to stop, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has said, holding the country responsible for the origin of the coronavirus pandemic which has killed over 250,000 people globally.

    People across the globe are going to rise up and tell the Chinese government that “we can no longer have these plagues coming out of China”, whether it is from labs or wet markets, neither one is a good answer, he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

    “We know it came from Wuhan and I think there’s circumstantial evidence that it could have come from the lab or the wet market. But, again, if you’re China, neither one’s a good answer,” Mr O’Brien said.

    “We’ve had five plagues from China in the last 20 years. We’ve had SARS, avian flu, swine flu, COVID-19 now and how longer can the world put up with this terrible public health situation that you’ve got in the People’s Republic of China that is being unleashed on the world,” the top American official said.

    He, however, did not mention the fifth plague to come out of from China.

    “I mean, this is—at some point, it’s got to stop. We offered to send in health professionals to help the Chinese. They rejected that,” he said.

    When asked that the US is still looking for evidence about the origin of the virus, he refrained from giving a time frame.

    “I can’t give you a timeframe on that. That’s something that we’re continuing to review and it is obviously a very serious concern.

    “Look, China’s got to figure out how to deal with its public health because we cannot have another one of these virus outbreaks and plagues come from China. This was a terrible thing that happened to the entire world, not just to the United States,” he said.

    More than 250,000 people have died due to the coronavirus and over 4 million people infected around the world. The US is the worst-hit country with more than 80,000 deaths and 1.4 million cases.

    “The world economy shut down, and this isn’t the first time it’s happened. This is the fifth time it’s happened in 20 years, and it’s got to stop. China needs help. They need help from the rest of the world. And we’re prepared to help China deal with the public health crises so we don’t face this issue again,” Mr O’Brien added


  2. The role the Chinese army plays in the Wuhan virus pandemic – Claude Arpi – Daily-O – 5 May 2020

    It is interesting to look at the role played by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the pandemic and at the future of the Chinese Armed Forces, which could become far more aggressive in view of the general economic slowdown. From Day One, a PLA unit, the Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF), has been on the central stage of what the Communist Party of China called the ‘People’s War’ against the ‘demon’ virus. – Claude Arpi

    We all know that the world will be different once the coronavirus crisis is over; very few countries will be spared. China, the origin of the virus, whether it came from the wet market or the Wuhan Institute of Virology, will never be the same too; more importantly, the Middle Kingdom will never be perceived as before. Further, Beijing is bound to face tremendous economic difficulties. Will Beijing be able to find innovative solutions and the Communist regime be able to adapt to the new realities? It remains to be seen.

    Handpicked by Xi

    In this context, it is interesting to look at the role played by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the pandemic and at the future of the Chinese Armed Forces, which could become far more aggressive in view of the general economic slowdown. From Day One, a PLA unit, the Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF), has been on the central stage of what the Communist Party of China called the ‘People’s War’ against the ‘demon’ virus.

    There is no doubt that the Communist authorities were lax, to say the least, during the first weeks; it is only on January 23, more than one or two months after the apparition of the first cases of coronavirus pneumonia, that the Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF) troops entered the stage. The Force was created on January 11, 2016 as part of Xi Jinping’s Dream of a rejuvenated China with a modern powerful and efficient Army; according to Xinhua, it “comprises the support forces for inventory and warehousing, medical services, transport, force projection, oil pipelines, engineering and construction management, reserve assets management, and procurement.” Coincidentally, it is based in Wuhan. Interestingly, on October 18, 2019, President Xi Jinping, also Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), flew to Wuhan to attend the first JLSF Party Congress. According to Xinhua, Xi Jinping encouraged the JLSF delegates and other senior officers stationed in Hubei province “to faithfully perform their duties and contribute to fulfilling the dream of a strong military.” The tasks for the JLSF were already clearly defined and once the COVID-19 broke out, it was soon implemented on the ground; in fact, it became a mega military exercise for the Force. The PLA immediately made the headlines by building the Huoshenshan 1000-bed field hospital in 10 days.

    During the entire crisis, China has demonstrated an amazing opacity, whether it is about the origin of the virus or the number of infected cases and casualties, while Xi’s presence remained central to the propaganda. At a press conference on March 2, Maj Gen Chen Jingyuan, Director of the health division of the Logistic Support Department made an astounding statement; he announced that the pneumonia outbreak did not cause cases of infection among the involved PLA personnel, while it improved the combat readiness of the Chinese military instead. One can believe the second part of the statement, but the first part can only make one smile.

    Lack of transparency

    Significantly, it was from the command centre at Huoshenshan hospital, that on March 10, Xi announced the ‘Victory’. Five weeks later, Xi signed an order of commendation to honour all the military personnel who participated; the order said: “The whole military has resolutely carried out the decisions and commands of the Communist Party and the CMC and shouldered heavy responsibilities, making outstanding contributions to winning the people’s war against the epidemic.” Commendation is one thing, but what will happen to PLA post coronavirus crisis is another; the Armed Forces may be cut.

    The Global Times already announced that the military budget will be hit …only mildly. The budget figure is expected to be announced at China’s annual two sessions, to be held at the end of May: “The defense budget may grow more slowly than in 2019, rising to about 1.27 trillion yuan ($179 billion), or it may fall to only 1 trillion yuan,” some knowledgeable analysts predicted. If it is so, this projection is not mild, it is more than a 20% official cut. Will this be taken ‘mildly’ by the PLA victors? It is doubtful. In recent weeks, China has shown a renewed aggression, whether it is in the South China Sea or on the Indian borders. On April 18, Sky Map, the Chinese public service platform working under the National Surveying and Mapping of China published new digital maps. At one point, Sky Map updated the map information and ‘inadvertently’ disclosed China’s borders’ claims, particularly in the area that they called ‘South Tibet’, i.e. the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh. Was this new aggression necessary at this point in time? In the meantime, the infrastructure in Tibet on India’s borders has restarted on a war footing, even while public places, such as the Potala Palace in Lhasa, are still closed.

    Another Doklam ploy?

    On April 7, Xinhua reported that the construction on the last two of the 47 tunnels on a 435-km railway linking Lhasa and Nyingchi, near the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh, had been completed “marking huge progress for the mammoth project.” One tunnel is 11.5 km long, while the other is 8.7 km. Examples could be multiplied, particularly an electricity mega project near the Ladakh border in Western Tibet employing 4,000 workers and the PLA aggressive posture in Northern Sikkim or Upper Subansiri district. Historically, when the PLA does not get its ‘dues’, it starts diverting its aggressiveness towards external targets; in which case, a new Doklam is always possible.


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