Chinese Pandemic

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BRAHMA CHELLANEY |

THE new COVID–19 coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries – bringing social disruption, economic damage, sickness, and death – largely because authorities in China, where it emerged, initially suppressed information about it. And yet China is now acting as if its decision not to limit exports of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medical supplies – of which it is the dominant global supplier – was a principled and generous act worthy of the world’s gratitude.

The coronavirus outbreak is now a global health emergency | WHO

When the first clinical evidence of a deadly new virus emerged in Wuhan, Chinese authorities failed to warn the public for weeks and harassed, reprimanded, and

 

When the first clinical evidence of a deadly new virus emerged in Wuhan, Chinese authorities failed to warn the public for weeks and harassed, reprimanded, and detained those who did

 

detained those who did. This approach is no surprise: China has a long history of “killing” the messenger. Its leaders covered up severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus, for over a month after it emerged in 2002, and held the doctor who blew the whistle in military custody for 45 days. SARS ultimately affected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries.

 

About two weeks after Xi rejected scientists’ recommendation to declare a state of emergency, the government announced heavy–handed containment measures, including putting millions on lockdown

 

This time around, the Communist Party of China’s proclivity for secrecy was reinforced by President Xi Jinping’s eagerness to be perceived as an in–control strongman, backed by a fortified CPC. But, as with the SARS epidemic, China’s leaders could keep it under wraps for only so long. Once Wuhan–linked COVID–19 cases were detected in Thailand and South Korea, they had little choice but to acknowledge the epidemic.

About two weeks after Xi rejected scientists’ recommendation to declare a state of emergency, the government announced heavy–handed containment measures, including putting millions on lockdown. But it was too late: many thousands of Chinese were already infected with COVID–19, and the virus was rapidly spreading internationally. US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has said that China’s initial cover–up “probably cost the world community two months to respond,” exacerbating the global outbreak.

Beyond the escalating global health emergency, which has already killed thousands, the pandemic has disrupted normal trade and travel, forced many school closures, roiled the international financial system, and sunk global stock markets. With oil prices plunging, a global recession appears imminent. ■

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