It looks increasingly like the lab leak hypothesis with regard to the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak is correct. Chinese Communist authorities sought to both cover up the initial outbreak and obfuscate its origins. More than four million people died as a result, and the true number is probably far higher as dictatorships like China, Russia, and Turkey purposely underreport figures.
The question then becomes what next.
Certainly, the press owes Senator Tom Cotton and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo an apology. The New York Times obfuscated news simply because partisan concerns outweighed their commitment to the truth; unless they expose and terminate the editor in question, no future Republican administration should trust them or grant them any more access than they would a Democratic party publication.
American political score-settling, however, is ultimately a distraction to the broader issue: Punishing Chinese malfeasance and exposing the actions of international organizations that subordinated their mission to the whims of Chinese communist influence or agendas.
The damage COVID-19 did worldwide is immeasurable. Earlier this summer, the Chinese Communist Party celebrated its centenary. World leaders congratulated Beijing. The reality is that the world should treat the Chinese communist party with as much disdain as they would Nazi Germany. Every Chinese diplomat should be treated as a pariah. No university should accept Chinese money any more than they would Nazi funds. After all, few if any political movements in the modern era have killed more. Deaths attributed to Mao Zedong and his successors outstrip Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. The millions who died under COVID-19 should be added to the tally. Truth matters and should trump feelings: Every school district in the United States should teach the reality of communism and of Chinese communist perfidy.
The initial COVID-19 outbreak may have been accidental, due to sloppy laboratory procedures, but the cover-up hampered the response. Responsibility for its amplification from a local outbreak to a global pandemic rests squarely with Xi Jinping’s regime. For this simple reason, it is legitimate to demand reparations. China may object, but let them explain to the world why every other country must suffer for the sake of Xi’s ego. Should China ultimately contribute to such a fund, it should have no role in its administration, for that would only allow Beijing to sow diplomatic rewards for its malfeasance. That said, it is important to be precise as to responsibility: It lies with the Chinese communist party and not China as a whole. Should the Chinese communist party fall—and that remains in the realm of possibility given China’s forthcoming demographic collapse—China should be welcomed back into the community of responsible nations.
Xi had a co-conspirator in the World Health Organization (WHO). Certainly, there needs to be an international audit and investigation of the WHO and its Ethiopian leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The hope that such an investigation would be thorough, however, is likely far-fetched. Consider how not only the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan but also the State Department and many European foreign ministries scuttled an effective investigation into the UN’s Oil-for-Food program scandal in order to prevent both findings that could tar their own citizens and be so ruinous to its reputation that it might not be able to recover. Rather, a more realistic sanction might be a prohibition of Chinese leadership of any international organization for a period of at least 25-years. Consider this an analogy to the International Olympic Committee’s banning of a doping athlete or, in the case of Russia, a thoroughly corrupt system.
Diplomatic niceties have no place when it comes to holding China to account for a preventable disaster. It is not the White House or State Department’s job to run interference for China. Unless Chinese communist leaders are held to account, the likelihood that they will treat the outside world with disdain in the face of preventable crises will grow.
Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a 1945 Contributing Editor.