Let's Give Credit Where Credit is Due

There is a massive difference between blaming a government and blaming the people over whom it presides. This critical nuance is being tragically ignored during the COVID-19 pandemic that originated in the Wuhan province of China. The Chinese people are not to be blamed, but their government is.

If there’s anything both political parties equally excel at doing in their own special ways, it’s turning non-partisan issues partisan. That’s exactly what Republicans and Democrats have done in handling the coronavirus as it hits the United States. Pandemics shouldn’t be partisan. As the virus spreads, infects and kills, American politicians and policymakers should be able to put aside differing ideologies and objectives in the name of saving lives. As shown in their recent stalemate over the current stimulus package in the Senate, they can’t.

It's easy to get tangled up in the complexities of American politics as the virus starts to hit home, but it’s important to view the pandemic outbreak on a global scale. The Chinese government deliberately censored and continues to stifle information about the coronavirus. The government deserves blame for the suffering and death it has caused both in their own country and consequently around the world.

Let me be clear: the blatant xenophobia and racism that Asian-Americans and Asians have been experiencing in the United States is disgusting and unacceptable. For example, a woman named Yuanyuan Zhu was screamed at and spit on by a stranger in San Francisco; an unidentified woman wearing a mask was assaulted in the New York City subway. No one deserves to feel unsafe or to experience injustice. For that exact same reason, I want to draw attention to the harmful actions of the Chinese government. 

Another clarification: by discussing the wrongdoing of the Chinese government in the wake of the pandemic outbreak, I do not mean to excuse or ignore American shortcomings. It is true that much more could have been done much sooner in the United States. That being said, our own failures as a result of disorganization, an embarrassing lack of preparation and several other issues are not an excuse to ignore blatant censorship, especially as China exploits our mistakes and weaknesses in attempts to pin the outbreak of the virus on the United States.

Efforts to control the availability and content of information are a hallmark of communist governments. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is no different. The CCP has put forth an expert on the virus, Zhong Nanshan, who said at a news conference that the COVID-19 outbreaks elsewhere in the world suggest it may not have originated in China. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. What’s even more disconcerting is the World Health Organization (WHO)’s praise of the Chinese response to the virus and “commitment to transparency.” Beijing is the UN’s second-largest donor, leading some to believe the WHO is simply unwilling to challenge the country. People are criticizing American politicians for putting the S&P 500 over people’s lives. What about when the health organization that essentially the entire world looks to for help potentially prioritizes lining their pockets over the truth?

Suggesting alternate origins of the virus is only the tip of China’s disinformation iceberg. The government closed the research lab that released the first coronavirus genome sequence for “rectification.” This actively hinders further research on the virus. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman has tweeted on several occasions “evidence” that the virus started in the United States. China’s internet is already tightly controlled and these tweets have been given significant air time. Many members of the Chinese public are rightfully angry and risking their lives to voice it: critics of the government response to COVID-19 have conveniently disappeared. The Chinese government has also expelled American journalists of several notable news publications from working in the country.

I don’t necessarily agree with calling coronavirus the “China virus.” Whether it’s just or it isn’t, please consider that Trump’s repetition of the phrase may not be unequivocally fueled by blatant racism, but potentially a foreign policy strategy. He knows China is watching. The Chinese government hates direct association with the virus and not for reasons of racism: they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions.

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