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Two U.S. agencies, the FBI and the Department of Energy, now agree that COVID-19 likely emerged from a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Since the Energy Department’s assessment is based on new information which will be shared, other official groups will presumably arrive at the same conclusion.
Suppose that a year from now U.S. intel agencies agree that the Chinese government created COVID-19 in a laboratory, lied about it and withheld information that allowed the deadly virus to run riot across the globe. What should President Biden do? How should China be held accountable for nearly seven million deaths worldwide and untold economic destruction?
China must pay a price. Biden will have to assemble a coalition of countries finally willing to push back against China’s carelessness and deception about COVID-19, as well as its ongoing theft of intellectual property, disregard for human rights, dishonest posturing about climate change and economic coercion. It is time. For over a decade the free world, in thrall to the economic opportunities of a growing China, has looked the other way as Beijing has allowed rampant cyberattacks, stolen billions of dollars in patents and know-how, lied about its military ambitions in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and cheated on international rules and standards.
Despite being a member of the World Trade Organization, which prohibits such activities, China routinely punishes other countries for what they view as hostile measures by blackballing imports of that nation’s goods. For instance, when officials in Canberra barred Huawei and ZTE from its 5G network and demanded a strenuous investigation into the origins of COVID-19, China retaliated by banning imports of Australian coal, beef, copper, wine, lobsters, beer and other key goods.
ANOTHER US AGENCY ASSESSES COVID-19 ORIGIN LIKELY A CHINESE ‘LAB LEAK’
Such moves are meant to weaken antagonistic countries, but both sides can play that game. The U.S. and its allies could similarly target and ban goods from China that can be bought elsewhere, which would not only punish Beijing’s interests but also accelerate the exodus of manufacturers from China.
The same coalition could also demand that China be booted from the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization. Yes, globalists would squeal, but China does not abide by the rules of these organizations. Instead, Beijing has manipulated them for its own interests. As a member of the WHO, China should have immediately shared valuable information about COVID-19 that might have accelerated the development of therapeutics and a vaccine. It also should have allowed a thorough and timely investigation of the pandemic’s origins. It did neither.
China should also be dropped from the G-20, which describes itself as “the premier forum for international economic cooperation.” China does not cooperate on economic or financial issues, but only serves its own political and financial ambitions. For instance, its antagonism to the west was on full display recently as it was one of the few holdouts on a resolution condemning Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. Isolation would be a blow to the country’s prestige, which matters to Beijing.
There would be a price to isolating China and barring imports of selected Chinese goods. Consumers would bear some increased costs up front; over time, however, the shifting of commerce away from China would provide economic and security benefits.
Remember that during the pandemic when Chinese authorities became aware that PPE items like masks and essential goods like test kits were becoming scarce, they hoarded supplies made by U.S. firms under phony export rules, keeping them for their own citizens.
The U.S. made a lot of noise about home-sourcing medicines and other critical goods when COVID revealed our dependence on China for such goods; it is time to take such measures.
For sure, assembling such a coalition would be extremely difficult. Corporate interests in countries like Germany and indeed in the U.S. would howl. However, if a sufficient number of compliant countries joined, as happened in the fight against Russia, others would be shamed into participating.
Voters in western countries may demand a strong response. After all, evidence has been building for almost three years that the virus probably escaped from the Wuhan lab, which was known to be conducting experiments on similar kinds of coronaviruses and which had been cited in prior years as failing to take adequate safety precautions.
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In May 2020, the highly regarded “Z Division” or intelligence arm of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory issued a classified report suggesting that a lab leak was a real possibility.
When a team led by the World Health Organization visited Wuhan in early 2021, the Chinese blocked the investigation. The international group of researchers were not allowed to speak to the people working at the WIV and were only briefly permitted inside the facility. The government also refused to share with the investigators any data on experiments, safety records or any other pertinent information about the operations of the lab.
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The WHO basically caved to China’s argument that the lab was not responsible. Nonetheless, the Danish scientist who led the WHO team suggested months later that the possibility of a lab accident merited further investigation, to which the Chinese never agreed.
Chinese officials have steadfastly denied that the virus escaped from the WIV, including in recent days objecting to the new report from the Department of Energy. In the past three years they even attempted to convince the world that COVID-19 came from outside China, but entered the country through frozen food imports. They also pointed fingers at the U.S. military. The world is unconvinced.
No one has ever accused China of intentionally unleashing COVID-19 upon the world; the leak, nearly everyone agrees, was likely an accident. But, the evidence will likely show that China almost certainly perpetrated an unforgivably costly and deadly act against the world, and lied about it. Are we prepared to punish them for it?
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