It turned a domestic epidemic into a successful biological attack on the rest of the world.
A s the end of the year approaches, we must reluctantly acknowledge that it has been a year of unimaginable triumph for America’s only serious rival, the People’s Republic of China. We will probably never know exactly how the coronavirus originated, and there appears to be a plausible scientific consensus that it was not deliberately and artificially created in the Wuhan viral laboratory, but it does seem likely that it originated there, rather than in the live-animal market of that city.
In any case, there can be no possible doubt that, once the Chinese government became aware of the virus, it took draconian measures, even by totalitarian standards, to contain and suppress it within China, and did absolutely nothing to prevent its spread out of China to the four corners of the world. The government of the People’s Republic, as is its frequent habit, went to very great lengths to disguise the extent of the virus in China, and the published official number of fatalities is a ludicrous underestimate. There is news film of special Chinese police riveting and welding shut the doors of homes and buildings to contain people at the height of the pandemic in that country, and there are many credible reports of special crematoria to dispose of the corpses of the very numerous victims.
In geostrategic terms, given the often-proclaimed Chinese intention of becoming the preeminent power in the world, it is objectively difficult not to respect the PRC’s talents of improvisation in instantly transforming a domestic public-health crisis into what amounted to the stealthy unleashing of bacteriological warfare against the entire outside world, with particular emphasis on disturbing China’s principal rivals, the large, economically advanced western countries. Japan, by some combination of good fortune and astuteness, moved at the outset to take drastic precautions and has not been overly disturbed by the coronavirus.
But the world’s other large, economically advanced countries — the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Spain, Brazil, and even India and Russia — have all been hard hit, and have mainly responded with more or less economically self-punitive lockdowns that have inflicted great hardship on their populations and severely strained their treasuries in caring for the suddenly and blamelessly COVID-related unemployed.
If we concede, as seems reasonable, that the Chinese government did not deliberately create this virus and was taken by surprise when it arose, then we are also obliged to respect their ruthless ingenuity in levering upon the severity of their dictatorship and their official indifference to domestic humanitarian problems in inflicting the coronavirus on the world and thoroughly exploiting the humanitarian sensibility and vulnerability of the western countries.
Whether they foresaw it or not, leaders of the Chinese government must quickly have realized that the western democracies had no ability to respond to the coronavirus in as authoritarian a manner as China and would be slow and reluctant to impute to China the deliberate propagation of such a virulent menace to the health of the whole world.
While no economic statistics published by the People’s Republic can ever be altogether believed, it is indisputable that by containing the coronavirus through recourse to extreme measures (by the standards of democratic countries), it confined economic damage in that country to a brief and sharp decline followed by a steep comeback. As the Chinese leadership must have hoped, the western states did not suspect for a long time that they were suffering from deliberate hostile Chinese actions in doing nothing to reduce or contain the spread of the coronavirus abroad, and were quickly panicked by their public-health experts into shutdowns that conferred immense competitive benefits on China and gravely weakened the economies and currencies of the major western powers.
**The National Review magazine was founded by the author William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955. It is currently edited by Rich Lowry.