By T.J.S. George
Is there an untold story behind the Corona pandemic that is changing our world? When a crisis of this kind hits mankind, it is natural for all kinds of stories to circulate. Most of the stories now being heard about the origin and nature of the pandemic are alarming. The central point of the stories is that China may be sitting on secrets that not only give frightening dimensions to the crisis but also make its role and intentions suspicious.
One factor emphasised by most observers is that, while the damage done around the world has been massive, China seems to have not been hurt too badly. Across the globe more than 3 million people have been infected and more than 2 lakh lives lost. In the United States, the disease hit 1 million people and 60,000 were dead. But in China, from where Corona began its calamitous march, the number of infections has been below 83,000 and the death toll about 5,000.
China appearing in a favourable light can be for one of two reasons. First, China is not revealing the real figures which may be much more devastating. Second, there might have been something the Chinese authorities knew and the rest of the world did not which helped them keep things under control. Australia has called for an international investigation into the pandemic and everything related to it. Australia implied that China was hiding facts and China accused Australia of political manipulation.
What facts could China hide? Perhaps Donald Trump knew something when he called it, again and again, the Wuhan virus. The general version is that the virus was the product of bad and irresponsible handling of meat and animal waste in the public market in Wuhan. But there was another version too — that the virus came from a laboratory that was trying to develop a biological weapon. The West had always harboured the theory that Communist China, intent on world domination, would not hesitate to use desperate measures to achieve its ends.
The head of the Wuhan Institute of Virology said that Corona virus did not originate there. But no one gave any conclusive answers as to where it originated. A generally accepted scientific view is that the virus evolved naturally. The Chinese Foreign Ministry completed the picture by saying that the virus might have emerged in the US and reached Wuhan through the World Military Games held there in October 2019 with the US also participating.
While denouncing Australia, China did say that investigations would be conducted into how and where the problem originated. It gave no details about how it proposed to conduct the inquiry which added to international scepticism about any Chinese inquiry.
This was natural because China’s official conduct when the crisis began was unbecoming. Two doctors who sounded early warnings about the disease they confronted in their wards should have been heard and precautionary measures launched without loss of time. Instead, the doctors were condemned for acting without taking clearance from the party. One of the doctors himself caught the virus and died. This caused widespread anger among the people. But the authorities did not care.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) itself seemed overawed by China. Its early reactions were half-hearted, allowing China to take advantage of it. American politicians openly criticised WHO but China remained a beneficiary. The situation created by the crisis calls for an international inquiry by competent experts. This will not be possible without China’s active participation. Since that participation is not likely to be forthcoming, the world will continue to be at the mercy of the pandemic instead of subjugating it for good.
China has been facing international criticism for its non-cooperation. By not releasing information about the spread of the virus in its early phase, said American author Shadi Hamid, China has “imperilled not only its own country and its own citizens but also the more than 100 nations now facing their own potentially devastating outbreaks.” (Shadi Hamid is the author of books like “Islamic Exceptionalism” and “Temptations of Power.”)
It may well be that China wants to dominate the world. But what is the point in dominating a world that is crippled by a pandemic that has gone out of control? We need to credit China with more common sense. We need to avoid the temptation to blame enemies for the dilemmas we face. By blaming China for virus-related problems, can we find an early way out of a crisis that has got us all completely foxed?