Skip to main content

The global pushback against China

Governments and individuals around the world want answers—and reparations—from China

The global pushback against China

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

How did the coronavirus pandemic begin? Where did the virus originate? Did it jump from an animal to a human at a Wuhan seafood market? Or did it accidentally escape a nearby laboratory known to perform experiments on coronavirus-carrying bats?

Months into the outbreak, with more than 3.6 million infections that have upended almost every society around the world, the answers to these basic questions still remain murky. The reason is China’s unwillingness to allow investigations or inquiry into the virus’s origin, along with an initial cover-up of its existence. 

Some countries around the world are fed up and demand answers: The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand have called for an impartial investigation into the origins of the virus to prevent another outbreak. Some are calling for reparations or suing China for coronavirus-related damages. Even countries with close ties to China are growing skeptical as they deal with the pandemic domestically.

China has decided to respond aggressively, pointing the blame at others—especially the United States. The Chinese government has also tried to regain goodwill by providing medical gear and testing kits, although several countries complain of faulty equipment.

The reverberations of the pandemic are causing countries around the world to rethink their relationship with China: In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche,  European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell admitted Europe has been “a little naïve” in its view of China. The Communist country is an economic partner but also a “systemic rival that seeks to promote an alternative model of governance,” he said. Suspicions of China are also leading European countries to rethink their plans to use Huawei’s 5G technology.

The French government summoned the Chinese ambassador after the embassy claimed on its website that France had abandoned residents in nursing homes, leaving them to die. German and Polish governments, as well as the state of Wisconsin, complained Chinese diplomats are asking the governments to thank China for its aid and praise its efforts to fight the virus. 

The German tabloid newspaper Bild published an article claiming China owed $162 billion in reparations for the outbreak. Others are also trying to get China to pay up for the pandemic: The states of Missouri and Mississippi, thousands of U.S. citizens, a group of Nigerian lawyers, and an Egyptian lawyer are all filing lawsuits against China. 

It’s unlikely that any of these suits will end with China paying for its role in the pandemic, since it has sovereign immunity as a foreign government. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt named the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the defendant in its lawsuit, claiming “an appalling campaign of deceit, concealment, misfeasance, and inaction by Chinese authorities unleashed this pandemic.” U.S. courts have never ruled on whether the CCP is responsible for the Chinese government’s actions, yet it will unlikely do little more than embarrass China, according to The Washington Post.

The Nigerian lawyers hope to persuade the government to take state action against China at the International Court of Justice at the Hague, claiming damages of $200 billion for coronavirus-related deaths, economic hardships, and daily disruption. Yet because the court requires states’ consent to participate, China can reject the court’s decision like it did with the United Nations’ tribunal on its South China Sea dispute with the Philippines.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Dan Crenshaw introduced legislation that would create an exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to allow Americans to sue the Chinese government. Other House Republicans are looking into legislation that would require the Government Accountability Office to calculate what China owes the United States in pandemic-related costs.

Even China’s close ties to Africa are fraying after videos of discrimination toward African migrants in Guangzhou went viral on social media, causing leaders of Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and the African Union to meet with Chinese ambassadors about racism toward their citizens. Landlords evicted African migrants, restaurants banned them from entering, and police forced them to undergo COVID-19 testing and mandatory quarantines over fears that foreigners would cause a second wave of infections. 

Especially with the West, China has responded with an aggressive “Wolf Warrior” approach, the term based on two nationalistic blockbuster films in China. The sequel’s tagline: “Anyone who offends China will be killed no matter how far the target is.”

In response to Australia’s call for an investigation, editor of the state-run Global Times compared Australia to “chewing gum stuck to the sole of China’s shoes.” Ambassador Cheng Jingye told The Australian Financial Review Chinese citizens may decide to boycott Australian goods: “Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?” One-third of Australia’s exports go to China.

Australia has said it would not give in to “economic coercion.”

Chinese media has also attacked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he continues to question whether the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. State media has called him the “enemy of humanity,” and “evil” for “wantonly spawning poison and spreading lies.” Chinese media claim he is trying to shift the blame to China to deflect from the United States’ delayed response to the virus.

China is also taking advantage of the U.S.’s retreat from leadership within the international community. After President Donald Trump announced the United States would pause funding for the World Health Organization, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that as the United States pulls back, China is stepping in to take its place: “Every inch that the U.S. withdraws from the wider world, especially at this level, is space that will be occupied by others—and that tends to be those who don’t share our values of liberal democracy.”


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 05/16/2020 01:17 pm

    I think Trump agreed with your assessment on the last paragraph for he has reversed his decision on this and agreed to continue spending at China's level which is 1/10 of what it was before. 

    China is fighting a war against the west using asymmetrical warfare where it uses bribes against foreign governments, economic power, academic influence, political influence, control over international organizations, control over strategic minerals, control over military component supply lines, control and domination in strategic military technologies, etc.  China is a tyrant nation seeking world domination and supremacy so they are focused on overcoming the US militarily. In fact, China has duped us into building up there military by using our academic institutions and US government funding. Ironically, Dr. Fauci was one who pushed the funding according to Newsweek.

    The Trump administration has to work with government officials who were there before his administration and deal with funding that was approved before he was president. 

    The sad irony in all of this is that we were likely building on China's biological weapons capability. Here are two articles by Bill Gertz an expert on China. Notice the dates when the articles were written for the Washington Times required Mr Gertz to make a disclaimer on the first article about international scientists claiming the Covid-19 virus could not have come from the Wuhan lab. I have addressed this elsewhere where this shows the pull China has over the world's scientific community. These scientists have funding or research connections with China so they have interest to say the virus originated in the market rather than the Wuhan Lab for their research funding could be shut down.

    I attended a conference a few years back where there was a session on targeted drug delivery and I left the conference overwhelmed thinking of the sinister ways a terrorist nation or group could use the technology. From the second article, it seems the US intelligent community thinks China is targeting ethnic groups but from the information from the conference I attended, I can tell you it could be much more sinister. It could be possible to modify viruses so the diet of the person (or some other marker) could either weaponize it to kill or not. It could target a person drinking a specific alcoholic drink such as bourbon. For example, the Chinese could develop a virus that could focus specifically on killing a person eating a Western diet. It could be triggered genetically where certain genes are the markers.  It would be used to wipe out Western soldiers such that our military could not fight. I think of the buffoon of a Captain who went outside of secure channels telling of the spread of Covid-19 where it was leaked to the press. His aircraft carrier was debilitated by Covid-19 but can you imagine a much more potent killing virus activated by specific markers such as diet? 

    China is a dangerous country that is seeking supremacy using asymmetrical warfare were they are subverting the scientific community using them for propaganda purposes or taking US funding to build up their biological weapons capabilities. We are fools if we allow this to continue!