Kelly Sadler: China Allowed the Spread of COVID-19 to Further Its Geopolitical Influence

BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 02: Chinese paramilitary police wear protective masks as they guard the entrance to the Forbidden City as it re-opened to limited visitors for the May holiday, on May 2, 2020 in Beijing, China. Beijing lowered its risk level after more than three months Thursday in advance …
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic originated in China, but evidence is mounting that once the Chinese Communist Party realized that the outbreak would cripple their economy, they knowingly allowed it to spread internationally in order to preserve their geopolitical dominance.

Indeed, modeling suggests that had Beijing undertaken interventions to contain the virus one week, two weeks, or three weeks earlier, rather than embarking on an extensive cover-up of its spread, cases could have been reduced by 66 percent, 86 percent, and 95 percent, respectively, according to a study from the University of Southampton.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) notified the world in January 2020 that it had identified a new strain of coronavirus; however, publicly available cell phone data suggests the Chinese government had closed the roads around the Wuhan Institute of Virology in mid-October. If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that “enormous evidence” exists that the Wuhan Institute of Virology played a role in the pandemic, these closures suggest the Communist Party were aware of something worth hiding there far before it announced it had discovered the new pathogen.

Then they covered up the severity of it. On January 21, China’s communist leader Xi Jinping asked the World Health Organization to withhold information from the international community about the virus’ human to human transmission and to delay a pandemic warning, according to a report Der Spiegel reportedly obtained from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service.

The CCP didn’t lock down Wuhan until January 23, allowing an estimated 5 million people to leave the city. Two days later it banned group travel overseas, but also criticized other countries for following suit. When Australia and the United States banned arrivals from mainland China in early February, Chinese diplomats and officials blamed the two countries for being “insensitive” and “overreacting.”

Meanwhile, Beijing was hoarding medical supplies. According to excerpts published by the Associated Press of an alleged Homeland Security intelligence report, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies and tried to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data.”

Then there is China’s gaslighting campaign. China has a history of lying to the international community on everything from its economic growth to its military spending, so this shouldn’t be a surprise; yet many mainstream media outlets have been allowing Chinese officials to print op-eds in their papers and publish Chinese propaganda aimed at sowing discord among Western Democracies.

“It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry tweeted recently. “Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!”

It is China that owes the international community an explanation. The CCP still has not given international investigators access to the Wuhan lab since the virus’ outbreak, and it still hasn’t provided the U.S. State Department with coronavirus samples that would help determine the virus’ origin. The CCP has also expelled many U.S. journalists from the country, so little of what Beijing tells the international community is verifiable. We just must take the CCP’s word for it.

China is also being strategic with the “help” it’s providing the world. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has returned to its communist orthodoxies, constructed an unprecedented surveillance state, and has unveiled initiatives such as “Made in China 2025” and “Belt and Road” aimed at exerting its power and influence across the globe.

Take, for example, the decision by China’s telecommunications giant Huawei to donate 800,000 masks to the Netherlands. Was it altruistic or was it motivated by the fact the Netherland’s 5G mobile licenses are set for June and the country still hasn’t decided whether to exclude Huawei from the bidding because of espionage concerns?

Or take China’s support of Italy, where it has sent doctors and supplies. Rome is one of Europe’s biggest supporters of the Belt and Road initiative, where China has lent countries hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure initiatives. And some poorer countries are asking Beijing for debt relief as they grapple with the pandemic. China has a track record of taking assets if and when they go under, building influence beyond their borders.

Moreover, as China tries to rebrand itself as a global humanitarian, much of the testing equipment it’s sending overseas is faulty – even as it sells the equipment at a premium for a hefty profit. Instead of taking responsibility, China blamed user error.

Meanwhile, China requires all Chinese companies to collaborate in gathering intelligence. The party has reportedly tasked some Chinese students and scholars in the U.S. and at other foreign universities and research labs to steal the most cutting-edge life science knowledge, which includes coronavirus information.

Last week, the United States and the United Kingdom issued a joint warning that “health care bodies, pharmaceutical companies, academia, medical research organizations and local governments” had been targeted for cybersecurity theft.

As the New York Times reported this week, “The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing to issue a warning that China’s most skilled hackers and spies are working to steal American research in the crash effort to develop vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus. The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic.”

The global community has to stop being naive thinking China is going to become more democratic and play by the rules if we’re nice to them. It’s simply not going to happen. China poses a significant threat to Americans’ health and way of life, and it is time we wake up and understand that.

Kelly Sadler is the communications director for America First Policies, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting policy initiatives that put America First, and a former special assistant to President Trump. 

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