Features Australia

Send Xi the reparations bill

China must be made to cough up for the coronavirus

28 March 2020

9:00 AM

28 March 2020

9:00 AM

What do the pandemic outbreaks of avian flu in the 1990s, Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003 and now coronavirus all have in common?

They originated in the People’s Republic of China.

The communist Chinese leadership sees itself as an emerging superpower economically, geopolitically and militarily. President Xi Jinping has fiddled the Chinese constitution to make himself de facto emperor for life, with supreme authority over his party, his government and all the Chinese people. Opposition is suppressed. Dissidents are kidnapped and gaoled. Free speech is gagged. News and propaganda are indistinguishable.

Since the coronavirus storm broke in late January, the head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adanhom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, has been firmly in Xi’s corner. Having been backed by China for his job (and immediately on his election pledging himself to the communists’ ‘One China’ policy, even though his job is supposed to be apolitical) Tedros consistently praises its communist regime’s coronavirus response. Meeting Xi in Beijing, Tedros said China ‘had set a new standard for outbreak control’ and shortly after said China ‘had bought the world time’. He also brushes off international criticism of China’s handling of the outbreak as racist and appeased his Chinese backers by naming the bug Covid-19, and not the Wuhan virus. But let’s join President Trump and call it Wuhan or Chinese virus anyway.

It isn’t the Chinese people – who have borne the brunt of the coronavirus scourge, contracting and dying from Wuhan virus in by far the greatest numbers – who opened this biomedical Pandora’s box. It was Xi’s authoritarian government, all the way from the local party satraps in Wuhan to the president himself. The regime wasted crucial time when the spread of the virus could have been shut down at source. The regime covered up Wuhan virus emerging and taking hold. Xi himself sat on knowledge of the outbreak before making anything public. And, most despicably, the Wuhan doctor who first sounded the alarm in December, Li Wenliang, was publicly denounced by the regime’s propaganda machine as a rumour-monger and detained for ‘making false comments’.  That Dr Li was vindicated only by his own coronavirus death is an ineradicable blot on the morality of panda-lookalike Xi and his whole tinpot regime.

If you pay too much attention to social and even some mainstream media irresponsibly egging on panic, you’d think Wuhan virus is the Black Death.  The reality is, however, that unless you’re elderly and/or don’t have other underlying health problems weakening your immune system, you should be okay. Although not necessarily; one 30-year-old Italian woman was found dead in her home from the virus.

But it’s highly contagious and there’s not yet herd immunity or a vaccine for it and, as Italy’s tragedy proves, it’s the elderly who are dying in their thousands. Around the world, momentously drastic measures are being taken to protect the vulnerable: in Australia that includes closing the borders to foreigners and requiring all arrivals self-isolate, and now all Australian states bar New South Wales and Victoria isolate even interstate residents. It’s revealed the sham unity of the European Union as Italy, France and Spain, for starters, confine citizens to their poky flats. It’s affected stock markets and economic confidence worldwide. It’s grounded airliners and tied up cruise ships. It may even decide America’s presidential election.

In Australia alone, confronting the Wuhan virus crisis has meant a $3 billion clinical response, and $200 billon, so far, in economic stimulus to keep businesses going. Britain is putting an extra £30 billion into its National Health Service alone. The costs of enforcing shutdowns and lockouts across the world will also be astronomical. And these are just direct costs, not the dire economic catastrophe unfolding as whole industries crash, jobs are lost, share markets plummet and daily life is upended (more toilet paper, anyone?). Almost certainly, coronavirus soon will bring Australia recession after nearly thirty years, achieving what even the 2008 Global Financial Crisis could not.

Being brutally frank: all this global disruption and misery originates with the communist Chinese regime. Xi’s government owed a moral duty not just to his people but the whole world to do all it could to contain the outbreak at the outset. As with bird flu and SARS, however, it put covering its own backside and saving face ahead of the lives of its own citizens and the well-being of the rest of the world. Yet from the Chinese leadership there has been no regret, no taking any responsibility for what originated under its authoritarian control. Instead it brands any criticism, even merely pointing out Wuhan being the virus’s Ground Zero, as racist and xenophobic.

Xi’s ‘up yours’ to the rest of the world is appallingly immoral. From its lax regulation of wet markets that enabled the first human case of Wuhan virus, for its incompetence, and especially its initial cover-up that denied other nations precious time to prepare, Xi’s regime is culpable. Applying principles of common law negligence, it grossly breached its duty of care to those to whom it was owed: all of us. The worldwide pandemic consequences of Chinese government malfeasance were reasonably foreseeable, even if the massive scale of the economic, social and political damage is worse than ever can have been imagined. Xi’s regime must be held accountable morally and politically, if not legally.

If this was a case under Australian law, the perpetrator of such culpable negligence would be liable to pay huge damages to all suffering catastrophic loss from their actions and possibly face criminal charges too. As the world faces Wuhan virus-induced recession or worse, and people die in their thousands, why shouldn’t Mr Morrison, President Trump and other world leaders calculate the damage the Chinese regime’s negligence has wrought, and send Comrade Xi the most gigantic reparations bill in the history of mankind? He deserves it and his discredited, despotic government should be made to pay it.

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