- Do we still need to ask?
By Jai Kumar Verma
New Delhi. 29 March 2020. There are evidences that China calculatingly covered up the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan. In early days and weeks of epidemic China not only suppressed the information but also made no sincere efforts to prevent it. In this way Beijing endangered not only the citizens of China but also of more than 100 countries. The communist regime of China expurgated, detained and punished the courageous Doctor Li Wenliang and human rights advocate Chen Qiushi, as they tried to warn government and fellow citizens about this dangerous virus and the severity of the situation.
Initially President Donald Trump was appreciative of the efforts of Chinese president Xi Jinping in controlling the pandemic so early, but later he and his administration realised that the virus started from China and it neither made efforts to control the virus nor informed the world about it. Hence, he named the virus as “Wuhan virus” just to emphasise that the virus started from Wuhan, China. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also indicated towards China for the outbreak. Defending the country, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson alleged that U.S. is trying to shift the responsibility and trying to deprecate China and mentioned that U.S. statements are “immoral and irresponsible”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) avoided mentioning Wuhan and named the ailment as COVID-19. WHO also gave no heed to the letter from Taiwan written in December 2019, in which Taiwan stated that coronavirus spreads from human to human and also requested to adopt precautionary measures. Taiwan took preventive measures and although it is so near to China it saved itself from the disaster.
China in past also mishandled the eruption of SARS in 2002 and 2003 but the present negligence of December 2019 and January 2020 may be intentional. The administration instead of taking actions against the spread of coronavirus took actions against whistle-blowers who wanted to warn the health department about the dangerous virus. Chinese government enforced a lockdown in Wuhan on 23 January which is about seven weeks after the virus first appeared. According to Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, in these seven weeks more than 50 million people must have left Wuhan. We also know that seven weeks is a very long time for the spread of this new virus.
The scientists and medical journals warned about the outbreak of the virus. In an article in 2007 and experts in 2019 cautioned about the outbreak of the virus in South China because of eating horseshoe bats and mammals in southern China but government took no action. Now Chinese have launched a disinformation campaign against U.S.A and alleging that U.S. army is behind the virus. As coronavirus is spreading rapidly in U.S., China is trying to influence media persons of U.S. and other countries to blame U.S. and give clean chit to Beijing. China has also expelled American journalists who may have written with facts about Chinese hand in creation and spread of coronavirus. Chinese spokespersons also tried to give the twist of racism and prejudices towards them but forgot that they are one of the worst racists and human right violators. Chinese have kept more than a million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps and Muslims are not allowed to follow their religious rites and practices.
The critics claim that China is an expansionist country and once Xi Jinping became president for lifetime, he wants to expand the influence of China all over the world. One Belt One Road (OBOR) is the brainchild of Xi Jinping which is an ambitious plan. It was initiated in 2013 and covers about 78 countries. Several small counties will not able to pay the loan of Chinese companies and China will occupy their prime ports, land and other places. Sri Lanka has already lost Hambantota and China is in control of Gwadar port of Pakistan. It is expected that China will also occupy some fertile land of Pakistan and will exploit the mineral resources of Balochistan, Gilgit and Baltistan. Pakistan, which is thoroughly radicalised is not realising the ulterior motive of China. It only feels that China is an all-weather friend which can be used against India. The extremism has increased up to the extent that clerics have refused to close mosques even at the outbreak of coronavirus.
According to unconfirmed reports China has developed about 1500 different types of viruses which it will use against their adversaries as well as against business competitors. The Wuhan Institute of Virology a research institute on virology opened in 2015 in Jiangxia District, Wuhan played an important role in the development of these viruses.
At present when world is finding difficult to cure disastrous coronavirus, The Global Times of China reported that a resident of Yunnan province died from Hantavirus. According to Centre for Disease Control, Hantavirus spreads through rodents. The China watchers claim that Beijing has started another virus at a time when more than 531,000 people are already infected by coronavirus and death toll is more than 24,000 and the scientists are fighting to find the medicine of the disease.
It is also preposterous that U.S., Japan, United Kingdom, Italy and other European countries are suffering with this dreadful virus while the distance between North Korea and Wuhan is only 1610 K. Ms and there is no impact of the virus. There is also very little impact of coronavirus on Russia. Both North Korea and Russia are friendly countries of China.
At present an economic war was going on between U.S. and China and it is expected that coronavirus would harm U.S. very badly. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) press conference of 24 March, U.S. may become the epicentre of coronavirus pandemic. WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris stated that “We are now seeing a very large acceleration of cases in the U.S.” At present more than 85000 persons are suffering from coronavirus in U.S.A. and number will increase.
The economists claim that China will emerge as a big beneficiary because of spread of coronavirus. The shares of European and American companies based in China have fallen and China which has deep pockets may purchase the shares of these companies. China has prepared 12,000 bed hospitals within two weeks. It is not feasible unless preparation was made before, as it needs several things including doctors, nurses, medical staff, equipment which may not be arranged in such a small period. Chinese also claimed that they have controlled the outbreak of the disease.
Large number of old Chinese people died by the virus, and in this way the government saved substantial amount which was paid as old age pension. At present economies of several countries are under pressure, the commercial capitals of most of the countries including India are giving deserted look, stock markets are in a pitiable condition. On the other hand, the economy of China is recovering, employees are returning to the factories. Wuhan the epicentre of the epidemic is ending the lockdown, sales are picking up, aviation industry is restoring the flights, subway traffic and online sales are also increasing. Very soon the consumer goods will finish from the world market and while most of the countries will be busy fighting the pandemic China will grab most of the orders and will strengthen its economy.
Few China watchers proclaim that coronavirus is a biological warfare initiated by China to subdue U.S., Japan and other European countries. In the present time economic power is as important as military might hence crippling of the economy of the adversary is significant. The situation all over the world is deteriorating but still there is no solution of the problem. The scientists and researchers are working day and night to find the solution and very soon some medicine will be invented but by that time the economy of several countries would be devastated, and China may be benefitted in long run. However, it is too early to blame any country or agency for this calamity. The world needs much more concrete evidences before putting blame to any country or institution for such a big catastrophe.
(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and a retired senior intelligence officer. He is also member of United Services Institute of India and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)