"What is Beijing hiding?"
For weeks, the Chinese government kept its people and the world in the dark about the highly dangerous coronavirus. China expert Gordon Chang has made serious accusations against Beijing. Through cover-up and inaction, he says, it deprived billions of people of valuable time to prepare for the worst.
From faraway China strange images reach our evening news on January 23rd. They are recorded in Wuhan, a city hardly anyone in the west had ever heard of before. The city of 11 million resembles a gigantic garrison at midnight. There is talk of the "biggest quarantine in human history". A mysterious corona virus is said to be spreading. 571 people have been infected and 17 have died.
It will soon become clear that the draconian measures taken by the Chinese Communist regime to lock down the city were taken too late.
Two months later, at the end of March, the coronavirus spread from Ground Zero Wuhan around the globe, bringing the global economy to a grinding halt and killing thousands of people. “This would've never been the epidemic that it is had China acted reasonably”, says Gordon Chang, American columnist, blogger, author and one of the most prominent China experts in America. “But because of the secrecy, because of the failure to deal with this at a time when it could have made a difference,” it has spread like wildfire to a pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic is crippling one economy after the other here in Europe and across the world, killing thousands of people. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is trying to rewrite history. It is spreading doubts, essentially saying it is not at all certain that the origin of the virus was China.
Gordon Chang, what is the intention behind this campaign?
Well, it must be to cast blame on somebody else, to create a foreign enemy, because the communist party knows that it is subject to great criticism inside China, they needed somebody to shift the blame to. That's my guess. It is the nature of the Communist Party to have an enemy. That enemy has traditionally been the United States. We shouldn't be too surprised about the statements from the foreign ministry from last Thursday (March 19th 2020) which say that patient zero was an American in America, and that the US Army probably brought the coronavirus to Wuhan. That tweet from the foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian #ZhaoLijian clearly intimated germ warfare.
They are alleging that the US committed an act of war?
Yes. They didn't say so explicitly, but when you read the tweet of the foreign ministry spokesman, that's the clear implication. This was brought to Wuhan by the US Army. I mean, there was no explanation that there were the military games in Wuhan. What they tried to do, I think, was to create the impression that this is germ warfare. In China itself right now, and also outside China, people are talking about how this is possibly a germ that came from the Wuhan P4 lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. I think that they're trying to deflect any sort of suggestion about an accidental or deliberate release from the lab. That's why I think they used the US Army. I don't know, of course, but that would seem to be a logical explanation for what they're doing.
You mention the P4 lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. P4 stands for the highest level of biosafety. China is said to have been experimenting with coronaviruses. Can you tell us more about this lab and the theory that it might have escaped from there?
People have been talking about this because, as you just said, and it is true, they were experimenting with coronaviruses in that Wuhan lab. I think it was last year that a Canadian couple who were ethnically Chinese were caught sending coronavirus samples to this Wuhan lab. Now, China is a party to the biological weapons convention. They're not permitted to develop biological weapons, but they are permitted, as everybody else in the convention, to develop defenses to bioweapons. We don't know what happened, but there are a lot of reasons to believe that this indeed was a release of some sort. There's a lot of science that goes both ways. There's science which suggests that patient zero had some contact with the Wuhan live animal market, and there's some science that debunks that theory. The one thing that we do know is that Beijing has done its best to inhibit foreign virologists from studying the outbreak.
Virologists who have parsed the genome and infectious disease experts who study coronaviruses, say they have enough evidence the virus is brand new and came from nature. They also published some similar reports in The Lancet. What really indicates an accidental release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
No one has been able to study it. How can you say it's not a release from a lab if you can't go to the lab? Indeed, we have seen Beijing do its best to prevent virologists and epidemiologists from actually going to Wuhan. The World Health Organization team went to Wuhan for like half a day with only part of the team.
How transparent has China been in terms of the origins of this virus?
It's been extremely untransparent. The team from the World Health Organization was composed of various people and was in-country for about two weeks or so. All but a day of that they were shunted around to unimportant locations. A portion of the team actually went to Wuhan for part of a day, and that's clearly not enough to study the outbreak or the origins of the outbreak. The question the international community needs to ask is, "What is Beijing hiding?" Obviously, it's hiding something.
If this were just merely an outbreak from the wet market, then why would they be so sensitive? I don't know, of course - but we've all got to be concerned that this was a release of some sort from a lab. Caixin, which they call the Wall Street Journal of China, actually posted an article which said that the SARS epidemic in China started naturally but the epidemic itself was fueled by three accidental releases from Chinese labs.
That article was taken down within an hour or two, but it indicates that these labs do leak. We've got to be very concerned about what this is. We don't know very much about COVID-19. All that we know was largely because some very brave Chinese virologists were trying to circumvent Beijing's rules, actually released the genome so that we could study it. If it were up to China’s regime, we still wouldn't have that. All the evidence, circumstantial evidence, points to a very bad conclusion. I'm not saying that China is guilty of a release from the lab or that this is an engineered virus, but nonetheless China can clear this up. China is not clearing it up, and so we've got to be concerned, "What's going on here?"
The earliest known person with symptoms of COVID-19 was traced back to December 1st 2019 in Wuhan. First China kept the real scope of the coronavirus secret, then they claimed it wasn't spreading among humans. Then they cracked down on medical warnings. Chinese authorities waited for more than a month after the first case to notify the World Health Organization about the new coronavirus. By doing so, did Beijing steal precious time for the west and the rest of the world to understand the nature of the new virus and to prepare for the catastrophe we are now facing?
Yes, of course. There's that University of Southampton study that said that if China had taken non-pharmaceutical interventions three weeks earlier that there would be 95% fewer cases of the coronavirus. China didn't act responsibly. For about six weeks or so, they allowed this virus to spread around China, and indeed, allowed the virus to leave China and escape to the world. China is clearly responsible. It was grossly irresponsible to exert that secrecy to not tell the world. There's just no question about that.
Economies are crashing, companies are going bankrupt. It's the biggest crisis we've seen in our lifetime. Would you say the Chinese ought to be held responsible for what happens now in the world?
In the past, countries have not been held financially responsible for viruses that have escaped from them. I don't think that we're going to start but, clearly, people around the world, governments around the world have got to understand that the nature of the Chinese regime meant that a run-of-the-mill virus has become a pandemic. We've got to understand that our relations with China need to be informed by that, that we cannot maintain the policies we've had so far, and that the regime in Beijing is inimical to good health and good order around the world. We try to engage. My country has tried to engage China for almost a half-century. Instead of China becoming more benign as it's grown stronger, it's become more belligerent, more arrogant, more dangerous. I think that it should be the policies of countries to understand that China is a dangerous regime and that they should not be maintaining links with it, especially those links that strengthen the regime, which are, of course, trade and investment.
The Chinese are now lecturing the West, saying a blame-game doesn't help to win the battle against coronavirus. They say it's important to focus on battling and beating and containing the virus instead of having a war of words. How important is it to get to the bottom of these origins and the responsibility of the Chinese government in this?
I understand the point that they're making. One could say, in a general sense, that's correct. But China is still preventing the international community from fighting this virus. We don't have virologists studying the origin of the outbreak, and it's because of the nature of China's communist system. We have to understand the consequences of the actions of the regime. Especially after the virus subsides, we have to understand that our policies have got to be informed by this, that we cannot go back to the pro-China policies that many governments maintained, and that we should probably end up with policies like the US had with regard to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, that this was an existential threat and that the world would never be safe or secure as long as the Soviet Union were in existence.
We need to say the same thing about China, that China is a threat to humanity and that there won't be peace and stability in the world as long as the Communist Party rules China and that it should be the policies of countries to end the rule of the Communist Party because there is an existential struggle. Got to remember this. Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler has been maintaining that China is the world's only sovereign state. He's been attacking the whole notion of Westphalia. He's been mentioning Tianxia, which is the Chinese notion that they rule “All under Heaven.” That makes Switzerland and the United States and Burkina Faso, essentially colonies of Beijing, in China's mind. That is completely incompatible with our notions that your country and Burkina Faso and the United States are sovereign states.
Now, as the epidemic seems to have waned in China, officials are praising their resolute handling of it, in contrast with the West's fumbling. What is the message? That it was a victory for one-party rule over our western political systems?
Even in the worst of the epidemic in China, they never gave up their attack on the institutions of other countries. Now, what they are trying to do is to basically prevail, to try to dominate the world, indeed rule the world. We've got to point out the fact that our systems are dealing with the virus in many ways which are superior to China's. This would've never been the epidemic that it is had China acted reasonably. But because of the secrecy, because of the failure to deal with this at a time when it could have made a difference, then China was forced to take drastic measures.
The other thing that's important is that China threatened, pressured other countries to keep the borders open to Chinese tourists, which spread the virus to places like South Korea, made the World Health Organization complicit in a very dangerous exercise, the WHO parroting Beijing's line about travel restrictions. We've got to reconsider about what we're going to do with the WHO, which I think either we force the top leadership to resign or we de-fund it because it's a danger to world health.
We are witnessing the downside of globalization each day now. China is threatening to cut off supplies of pharmaceuticals and medical protective gear. When we get out of this tunnel, hopefully sooner than later, what are the lessons to draw from all this?
Well, there will be a reexamination of globalization. I believe that there will be some de-linking of countries from one to the other. Countries are going to understand that they need to be self-sufficient in certain products, and we are probably going to have a reversal of the decades-long trend of globalization. This was going to happen anyway, but what China has done is it's proved beyond all doubt that globalization has severe disadvantages. Until the world can figure out how to deal with this, countries are going to do what they have to, which is to protect themselves. There's going to be a period where we will be de-linking from each other until we figure out how to solve these problems.
Gordon Chang, 58, is an American columnist, blogger, author and lawyer. He is the son of a Chinese father and an American mother of Scottish ancestry. Chang lived and worked in Mainland China and Hong Kong for almost two decades. He is a regular contributor to The John Batchelor Show, The Glenn Beck Program on Fox News, and CNN. He is widely known for his book The Coming Collapse of China.