There is a relentless campaign to malign, target and contain China with every opportunity that the U.S. government and its partners get.
There is a clear and predictable pattern that is visible and is manifested in Washington’s narrative towards Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the false use of the word “genocide” with it, as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Unfortunately, a global health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception to narrow, political interests.
The problem with Washington’s narrative in regard to China is that it lacks evidence, as stated by renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs in the speech he gave at an online forum titled “Xinjiang In My Eyes” held on May 20 of this year.
On August 1, the Republican Party and U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the third installment of his investigative report on the origins of the coronavirus.
Before we analyze the contents of the GOP’s report, it is worth questioning whether a politician and/or a political party, that are fundamentally partisan from the outset, and not linked to a multilateral institution that is recognized in global health governance, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), can undertake a serious, fact-based, investigation into the biggest global health crisis of recent history.
At a time when the world is seeing a surge of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, and scientists and doctors are struggling to grapple with the heightened risks and global health challenges posed by the pandemic, it is critical that all major countries despite their political differences look towards multilateral institutions, the WHO in this case, to address issues related to the pandemic. It is only multilateral institutions that can garner across-the-board consensus as well as confidence in their investigations and findings.
Furthermore, pandemics, be it the COVID-19 pandemic or previous pandemics such as the Spanish Flu and Ebola, are borderless, faceless, and nationless, having no caste, creed, or ethnicity. The renewed attempts by the Republican Party as well as the Biden administration to attribute the COVID-19 pandemic to China and to the Chinese government is a more sophisticated version of President Trump’s narrative of labeling the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
From a legal standpoint, there is no international mechanism or law in place that holds a state responsible for an infectious disease on the premise that it was first discovered there. Secondly, there is no precedence in international law and in the history of infectious diseases where a particular country was penalized for allegedly “spreading an infectious disease.” If Washington’s logic was to be upheld, much of sub-Saharan Africa would be sanctioned because some past infectious diseases emerged from or were first discovered there.
Therefore, selective application of sanctions or penalties towards China demonstrates the West’s double standards and its obsession with containing a rising China, at all costs. What is disconcerting is the desperation and extent to which Washington and its Western partners are willing to go for the sake of containing and embarrassing China.
It is pertinent to mention that China has in the past welcomed a WHO-led investigation into the coronavirus pandemic. In the meeting of the World Health Assembly last November, President Xi Jinping unequivocally stated that China was ready for a transparent investigation to determine the root causes of the pandemic and that China would fully cooperate with the investigation team and the WHO.
Subsequently, a team of international experts from 10 countries including but not limited to the United States, under the auspices of the WHO and in cooperation with China, conducted a comprehensive 28-day joint investigation. The joint investigation report, which was released by the WHO on March 30 of this year, had the following key outcomes: i) The theory of the pandemic being the result of a lab leak was not substantiated by empirical or circumstantial evidence; ii) the coronavirus had most likely emanated from animals.
Considering that this was the collective outcome of a study by experts from across the globe and led by the WHO, the outcomes of this report should be honored and be accepted as conclusive, as opposed to launching parallel and one-sided investigations that do not have confidence and support of the international community.
It is imperative that the United Nations and WHO play a constructive role and act as a reasonable, above-board institution, and urge Washington to keep politics and the “Cold War” mindset outside of the global health governance discourse.
Finally, early signs of the use of lawfare (using law as a tool of warfare), vis-a-vis China by the West, are also visible, by some actors calling for sanction against China. Upping the ante on China on all fronts, but having little or no evidence to substantiate their claims, just as was done before the U.S. waged a war on Iraq and falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, will have no winners. The sooner the West understands that the better.