Covid-China-19: we will not forget
It is the efforts made towards China by what is called the global community that allowed the country, over a few decades, to successfully implement its reforms. The normalisation of relations between the US and China, inaugurated in 1979 by President Carter, was in fact the starting point of an open relationship of reformatory initiatives that were then put in place by Deng Xiaoping. This nation’s rise in power, over the last 40 years, owes entirely to the massive transfers of technology, trade, and investment – and not just financial but educational too – granted by the West. This edifice, this tangling of relations and interests, was built up year after year, through the hard graft of diplomats, politicians, universities and financiers.
Less than a decade after the Tiananmen Square massacre, President Clinton nevertheless took it upon himself to bring China into the World Trade Organisation club, the royal path that led the country to hoist itself into second place in the list of the world’s top economies fifteen years later. Successive Chinese leaders, with the first being Deng, made the decisions that fell upon them, not only to pull hundreds of millions of their citizens out of poverty, but also to give their country the prominent role on the international stage it deserved. The foundations were indeed well established, with the crucial prerequisite to any integration into the global system being a vital ingredient that goes by the name of confidence, and in the absence of which China would never have been able to follow this path to its destination.
Today though, this confidence has been broken – or at the very least very seriously called into question – by the coronavirus pandemic. And where the virus began doesn’t really matter, because it is indeed the secrecy, and indeed the lies, of the Chinese authorities that have compromised (physical and mental) health, security, economic stability and the citizens of China and the whole world. Concerned only with appearing to still be in control, China in fact didn’t hesitate – from day one of 2020 – to punish those who sounded the alarm who just wanted to warn the world about the dangers of the virus, and who were accused of “spreading false rumours” and “gravely disrupting public order”. China could have avoided this and prevented 95% of infections linked to coronavirus if it had publicly acknowledged the epidemic and reacted three weeks earlier, according to the conclusions of a study led by the University of Southampton.
But why be surprised about it? Don’t the leaders of this country have a terrible track record when it comes to transparency, don’t they have the habit of shooting the messenger? Wasn’t SARS-CoV – that has killed in 2002-2003 more than 8,000 people in over thirty countries – kept secret for over a month and didn’t it earn the Chinese doctors who then tried to alert the world of it nearly two months in prison? Nothing will be – nothing can be – as it was before with China when this pandemic is eventually wrestled under control, because this country has shown it is not up to its responsibilities as a global power.