An enjoyable (if low-energy) clip from the editor of Bild that’s drawn nearly two million views on Twitter alone, thanks in part to promotion by the likes of Ted Cruz. It’s slightly disorienting watching a reporter lay into China’s manifold failures on preventing the pandemic without any partisan or ideological lens through which to view his commentary, which is probably why American viewers are responding to it. In the U.S. it often feels like all political criticism is an angle on Trump somehow, whether for or against. Not this time.
Is he right that Chinese citizens are “whispering” about Xi Jinping’s performance? If so, those whispers are hushed in most cases. But not always.
Hu’s son is now suing the Wuhan municipal government for allegedly concealing the seriousness of the virus, among other complaints, according to court documents prepared by Funeng, a public welfare NGO based in Changsha. Hu’s son is among a small but significant group of residents seeking answers, compensation or simply an apology from officials who took weeks to notify the public of the threat from a virus that went on to claim the lives of at least 4,000 people in China, according to government figures, most of them in Wuhan…
“None of this would have happened if they had told us. So many people would not have had to die,” said a relative involved in one of the lawsuits. Another said: “I want an answer. I want those responsible to be punished under the law.”…
Dissent has spread in other ways. Dozens of shop owners at a shopping mall in Wuhan demonstrated this month, demanding rent reductions after months of not being able to open their stores. In Yingcheng, a city west of Wuhan, residents put under lockdown protested against the high prices for food imposed by community management. One of the protesters, Zeng Chunzhi, has reportedly been detained.
“I know a lot of families who are incredibly angry,” said one Wuhan resident whose father died from the virus in February. It’s not just Chinese citizens who are looking to sue the government either. The idea’s being kicked around in the U.S. too to let victims of the disease sue Beijing for its recklessness in not shutting down wet markets and covering up the spread early in the pandemic. There’s a statutory obstacle, notes Jonathan Turley: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, which bars lawsuits in the U.S. against foreign powers except in limited circumstances. But that statute can be amended, of course. Congressional Republicans should relish an opportunity to shift public attention to China’s misdeeds in the middle of an election campaign in which Trump’s handling of the outbreak will be savaged by Democrats. And Dems may be afraid to oppose them, not wanting to be seen as soft on China. Would Trump sign a bill like that? He’s been exceedingly gentle with China so far but his tone’s gotten sterner in the last few days. And he’s the ultimate beneficiary of a “blame China, not Trump” electoral strategy.
Whether or not any lawsuits here are filed, let alone result in damages, the pandemic is destined to cost China enormously in terms of lost prestige and economic opportunity. Read this piece at the Financial Times about the toll that’s already been taken, even with the west just two months or so into this nightmare.
The shift has been striking in the UK too, where influential Conservatives have called on the prime minister to be tougher on China, the British press has become more critical, and intelligence agencies have promised to focus on the threat from Beijing. In Europe and Australia, governments have rushed to block Chinese companies from buying assets cheaply amid economic carnage. And Tokyo has set aside $2.2bn explicitly to help Japanese companies move their supply chains out of China.
But it is not just the US and its allies that have soured on Beijing. North Korea, China’s only treaty ally, was the first country to close its northern border at the start of the outbreak, despite Beijing’s objections to international travel bans. Russia quickly followed. Even Iranian officials have criticised China for hiding the extent of the outbreak…
All this will accelerate calls in Washington and elsewhere for rapid decoupling from Chinese supply chains.
The UK is already moving to scrap Huawei’s involvement in its new 5G network and chattering about reassessing its relationship with China once the crisis is over. It’s inevitable in the U.S. that both parties will begin incentivizing American companies to move production out of China, especially production of essential goods like medical supplies, after the disease runs its course. Democrats may not want to but public opinion will leave them no choice. Ironically, this period in which the world economy is buckling because of a Chinese plague may be the last period of relative prosperity that China experiences for years to come. The reckoning is coming.