by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Dan McLaughlin of National Review Online challenges an argument that China should not be blamed for its role in the spread of COVID-19. McLaughlin specifically rejects a Washington Post columnist’s comparison of COVID-19 to the 1918 Spanish flu.
[I]n attempting to deflect consequences from the Chinese regime, [Max] Boot isn’t content to mangle century-old history; he’s also downplaying what happened this year. He frames a “whatabout Trump” parallel for Xi Jinping’s regime by talking only in terms of delays in locking down Wuhan. This ignores the extensive pattern of Chinese misconduct. Chinese officials knowingly peddled the false claim that the virus could not spread person to person. These claims were duly parroted by the World Health Organization. In January, even sophisticated Western experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci were “unclear” on how contagious the virus might be, uncertainty that Fauci now says was based on Chinese “misinformation right from the beginning.” Chinese officials arrested whistleblowing doctors, ordered a halt to testing and the destruction of samples, and refused to provide a sample of the virus for Western researchers to study. These were all practical obstacles to research and public-health responses even by governments (not only our own) inclined to be skeptical of official Chinese pronouncements. Meanwhile, 5 million people left Wuhan, and hundreds of thousands of people entered the United States from China before the Trump administration restricted travel at the end of January. Given recent reevaluations of how early the virus was spreading, it now looks as if we knew too late to shut the proverbial barn door.
These are not a reason to let American leaders, from Trump on down, off the hook for their own subsequent actions. But neither is “whatabout Trump” a valid excuse for defending the Chinese Communist Party and whitewashing the very real effect that its actions have had on America and the world.
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