By: Giulio Meotti
“On current course, China is liable to do significant damage to the rest the world, by accident or intent,” wrote columnist Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on January 29.
“The Chinese Communist government increasingly poses an existential threat not just to its own 1.4 billion citizens but to the world at large”, wrote the noted historian Victor Davis Hanson on February 20.
According to The Sunday Times,
“Chinese laboratories identified a mystery virus as a highly infectious new pathogen by late December last year, but they were ordered to stop tests, destroy samples and suppress the news, a Chinese media outlet has revealed.
“A regional health official in Wuhan, centre of the outbreak, demanded the destruction of the lab samples that established the cause of unexplained viral pneumonia on January 1. China did not acknowledge there was human-to-human transmission until more than three weeks later.
“The detailed revelations by Caixin Global, a respected independent publication, provide the clearest evidence yet of the scale of the cover-up in the crucial early weeks when the opportunity was lost to control the outbreak.”
In a speech on December 31, 2019, Xi Jinping was already triumphantly heralding a new year of “milestone significance in realizing the first centenary goal”.
“Censorship. It can have deadly consequences,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 25. “Had China permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge.” Unfortunately, the World Health Organization did the opposite, “praising” China for fighting the virus. Europe has also been busy appeasing China.
In China, 780 million people – roughly half its population – are living under travel restrictions, and its president, Xi Jinping, is using the crisis to strengthen his control. Since 2013, he has continued to expand his immense authority to remain “president for life”, and is now seeking to take advantage of the coronavirus to tighten his control over the public even further, while silencing dissent.
The consequences for Italy, which currently has far more infected persons than the rest of Europe combined, are described by Massimo Galli, the primary infectious disease specialist at Milan’s Sacco Hospital:
“We are in full emergency. Yes, I am worried. The epidemic has to all intents and purposes conquered a part of Italy…. The situation is, frankly, an emergency from the point of view of the healthcare system. It is the equivalent of the tsunami in terms of the number of patients with major illnesses hospitalized all at once. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Even the best health organization in the world, and we are among them, risks not being able to withstand such an impact”.
Meanwhile, China’s war on the truth marches on. The laboratory of the Shanghai Health Center was closed on January 12, one day after Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s team revealed the sequence of the coronavirus genome on open platforms. The Chinese regime prevented its scientists from finding ways to contain the epidemic. Their “crime”? Releasing the sequence to the world before the Chinese authorities did.
“The epidemic has exposed this country completely in its corruption, bureaucracy, information control and censorship,” said Phillip Wu, a freelance writer in Beijing. And if you think the Chinese regime is meddling only in its own country, read a recent British report revealing how China is also curbing academic freedom in the UK.
Zeng Yingchun and Zhen Yan, two nurses from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, wrote a dramatic letter for the medical journal The Lancet, in which they asked the international scientific community for help:
“The conditions and environment here in Wuhan are more difficult and extreme than we could ever have imagined. There is a severe shortage of protective equipment, such as N95 respirators, face shields, goggles, gowns, and gloves. The goggles are made of plastic that must be repeatedly cleaned and sterilized in the ward, thereby making them difficult to see through.”
One day later, the nurses requested that their letter be withdrawn.
The Chinese regime arrested Li Wenliang, the doctor who had issued the first admonition about the epidemic that soon killed him. On December 30 he had sent out a warning to his fellow medical workers, but police told him to stop “making false comments”. Many journalists told the truth, but were arrested or “vanished.” Social media in China talked about the virus weeks before the government did.
Now the Chinese communist regime is announcing plans to publish a book in six languages about the outbreak; the book portrays President Xi as a “major power leader” with “care for the people”.
At the Wuhan Institute of Virology, scientists carry out research at a laboratory that has the highest level of biological containment on the mainland, to study the world’s “most dangerous pathogens”. That the coronavirus might be related to Wuhan’s virus research laboratory is considered by some a “conspiracy theory,” but China’s refusal immediately to accept help from the US Centers for Disease Control understandably arouses suspicion. According to Paul Wolfowitz, former President of the World Bank and former US Deputy Secretary of Defense:
“The fact that Wuhan is home to China’s advanced virus research laboratory known as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which does some classified work for the Chinese military, has predictably generated speculation that the novel Corona virus might have somehow leaked out of that institute.”
“Don’t buy China’s story: The coronavirus may have leaked from a lab”, wrote Steven Mosher, an expert on China, in The New York Post. We do not know the truth and we might never know it. The theory that the virus originated in a bio-research laboratory might indeed might turn out to be “fringe.” However, considering China’s level of secrecy and its dangerous campaign of censoring talk about the virus, is not doubt at least legitimate?
So far as anyone can see, the Chinese communist regime has no regard for human life, freedom or dignity. The regime kills prisoners to harvest their organs for transplant, and performs “forced abortions” for “population control”. There is not only an epidemic of viruses but also of “infanticide.” According to research by Harry Wu, a 75-year-old Chinese human rights activist, “there are six to eight million inmates working” in China’s “re-education camps” today. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime, by suppressing the truth about its deadly coronavirus, has endangered not only its own people but also the international community.
Italy’s fatal mistake was in trusting China’s regime. Instead of checking everyone — Chinese or Italian — returning from China since January, Italy kept its borders open. It is now dealing with tens of thousands of Italians under quarantine, 3,858 people infected and 148 deaths (as of March 6), the paralyzation of northern Italy’s economy, fear and hysteria in the population, with empty supermarkets in Milan, to mention just some effects of the coronavirus. Italy is now the world’s third-most-infected country after China and South Korea, with Iran not far behind.
Professor Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, in an interview with the South China Morning Post newspaper, compared the coronavirus’ fallout to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine. “It will be a crisis of Chernobyl proportions, especially because we will have to contend with the virus for years to come,” Yang said. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies around the world are working on a vaccine, which should at some point limit the damage. In 1979, there was an anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk, when deadly spores, leaked from a Soviet biological weapons facility, killed at least 64 people. Soviet and Russian authorities were able to cover up the incident until 1992. Nuclear, viral and biological disasters — followed by state campaign to keep these secrets — seem to be routine in dictatorships.
Unfortunately, we in the West appear to be making the same unforgivable mistake with communist China as we did with the Soviet Union: trusting a paranoid and merciless dictatorship. “It is clear,” noted the Chinese dissident Ma Jian, “that the virus of Xi’s totalitarian rule threatens the health and freedoms not only of the Chinese people, but of all of us everywhere.”
A WeChat post dedicated to the late Dr. Li Wenliang included quotes from the Soviet chemist Valery Legasov, who investigated the Chernobyl disaster, and wanted to speak the truth but was silenced, persecuted and forced to lie by the Soviet regime:
“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth.
The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth …”
Legasov took his own life. One day, we Westerners might also feel remorse for not having made the Chinese communist regime accountable for its cold-blooded crimes. Appeasing China, as we did the Soviet Union, is not just a failure; it is a lethal threat.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.