April 4, 2020 | The Sunday Guardian

Time to practice social distancing from CCP

April 4, 2020 | The Sunday Guardian

Time to practice social distancing from CCP

How many times does CCP have to lie before we just say, ‘ok, they are liars’?

It’s time to practice social (and economic and political) distancing from Patient Zero of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

This global disaster has one origin, the nature of the CCP. I’ll explain.

Some believe the virus came from a market in Wuhan where they sell live animals for food. Others, especially if they have WhatsApp, believe it came from a biomedical lab in Wuhan, possibly accidentally released.

Either way, the CCP is to blame. Those types of markets, apart from contravening myriad health codes and often illegally selling endangered and protected animals, have likely been the source of other outbreaks, including possibly SARS in 2003. They should not exist.

So the CCP was deliberately ignoring something illegal and known to be dangerous, or it didn’t have the power to shut it down. Either way, it’s a failure of governance. Similarly, but more so, if the lab was involved.

Once the outbreak was detected, the sort of enforcement the CCP didn’t use on dangerous markets was efficiently and brutally directed at medical professionals trying to understand why their patients were falling sick and dying. In early December, doctor Li Wenliang asked colleagues about a new respiratory infection. He was soon dragged in by the police for questioning and forced to sign a statement saying he was lying about the infection. The infection that later killed him.

In the meantime, while the virus was being downplayed by order of the CCP, around 5 million residents of Wuhan headed out of town for the holidays, carrying it far and wide throughout China, and beyond.

The misapplication of force, lying, blaming the victim, and the disregard for the safety of Chinese (or any other) citizens if it might cause the Party any immediate problems, are all standard operating procedure for the CCP. And it has been since its founding. Over the decades, the nature and resulting policies of the CCP have resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese from starvation, poisoned rivers, “family planning”, politically-motivated imprisonment, the list goes on and on.

Now the CCP’s self-serving policies around the virus are not only killing its own people, they are killing thousands around the world, and bringing the global economy to a shuddering stop.
It is time to isolate the cause of this deadly global contagion, the CCP. These are extraordinary times. Defensively, countries are doing things never thought possible; going into lockdown, pumping trillions into the economy, invoking war-time measures.

Now it is also time to do things that will better position us once we are through the worst of it, the sort of things that were once described as too expensive, too hard, too big a change. Terms that mean a lot less now. We can begin with policies that might go a long way to making sure we aren’t in this situation again all too soon.

Here are three ways to start.

Social distancing of the CCP. The CCP is waging a very aggressive “narrative” war about the virus. So far, government-linked sources have tried to say it originated in the United States and Italy. Blame the victims. It also continues to obfuscate its data on infections, dissemination, and deaths—data that could save lives, including in China. If it had spent half the effort controlling the virus as it is spending trying to control the narrative, we might not be where we are now.

The CCP is so keen to make it look like Beijing has the virus under control in order to ensure the CCP won’t lose face or, just as important, in-bound investment, that it is knowingly creating the circumstances in which more people will certainly die.

Global newspapers are full of CCP apologists creating false analogies about how “other governments lie as well”. They need to be called out. Sure, other governments lie but, at least in democracies, there are checks and balances. The press, the medical professionals, the judiciary. In China, if any of those step out of line, the CCP will cut them down.

How many times does the CCP have to lie before we just say, “ok, they are liars”? And question everything they say. For example, endless headlines are proclaiming the US has the largest numbers of deaths. That’s only true if you believe China’s statistics. I don’t. And so I won’t repeat them, or use them in analyses or discussions. I don’t want to help the CCP sell its lies.

Imagine you had a neighbour who consistently lied to you about everything, including where your property line is, and how their rabid dog is actually a nice fluffy bunny. And when their rabid dog bites you, he then tells you it’s actually your dog and so your fault, and you should keep your dog out of their (rapidly expanding) property or you are offending them. Would you take that neighbour at their word about anything else? Or would you, as much as possible, keep a social distance? India, does that sound like any of your neighbours (actually, probably more than one, but that is another column)?

Economic distancing of the CCP. Similarly, we are seeing through this pandemic that Chinese companies will do anything to make money, including selling faulty medical protection equipment and virus tests. Again, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Remember about ten years ago when the Nigerian government found fake medicines made in China were being sold in the country labelled as “Made in India”?
The CCP says, “oh that’s not us, that’s the private sector”, but it’s the same situation as the illegal markets. Either that means the CCP doesn’t care Chinese companies are killing people with their products, or they don’t have the power to stop them. Given the level of surveillance in China, I’d bet on the former. But even if it were the latter, it would show a dangerous failure of governance. Again.

Combine that approach with the notorious theft of IP, intimidation of foreign investors, a deeply corrupt system, disruptions to supply chains as the CCP locks and unlocks sectors based on something that is not science, and a festering trade war, and it may be time to start looking at investing elsewhere. Some countries are already tentatively trying to encourage their companies to do exactly that. Recently, Japan announced a subsidy scheme to help Japanese companies that want to relocate out of China to Japan or Southeast Asian countries.

Political distancing of the CCP. This is the big one. If we accept that the CCP lies, and seems to care more about its own survival than the health of its citizens (and those in the rest of the world), why does it have the right to set the agenda in, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO)?

While the CCP was lying about how contagious the virus is, non-WHO member Taiwan was trying to alert the world that person-to-person transmission was possible, something essential to know when crafting responses. That fact was a key component of Taiwan’s so far effective domestic policies, resulting in Taiwan being one of the few countries not in a total virus panic. If Taiwan was a member of the WHO, thousands of people might still be alive, and the global economy might not be in free fall.

The CCP similarly infects other international organisations, as it seeks to use them for narrow, and potentially dangerous, advantage. This isn’t a call to expel China from such fora, but rather to give its voice the credibility it deserves, while ensuring other voices that actually do realise that we are all in this together, such as Taiwan, can be heard.

Maybe with social, economic and political distancing, we can contain the dangerous contagion that close contact with the CCP inevitably engenders. And, if so, when the next crisis comes out of China, we will already have our protective gear in place.

Cleo Paskal is Non-Resident Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Read in The Sunday Guardian

Issues:

China COVID-19 Indo-Pacific Military and Political Power