What COVID-19 tells us about China

Joseph Cotton is a sopho-
more Philosophy, Politics
and the Public major. He is
a staf writer for the News-
wire from Dearborn, Mich.

China needs to take responsibility for their actions when the smoke from the COVID-19 pandemic clears. Although a lot can be said about how the United States has responded to the pandemic, the blame ultimately needs to be laid at the feet of the Chinese government. The international community needs to come together to denounce the sins of omission that China has committed.

By all means, we are lucky that COVID-19 is the virus that we ended up with. This virus could easily have been 10 times as deadly and spread just as quickly as it has been. 

Even with the death rate of 1%, the consequences for the world have been disastrous. The global economy has ground to a halt, people are losing their livelihoods and health systems are quickly getting overwhelmed under the pressure of the moment. 

If the world is going to learn the right lessons from this crisis and prevent the next one, the Chinese Communist Party needs to get its act together. We cannot let a rogue, autocratic government continue to put the health and safety of the world at risk to simply protect their reputation. 

First, the Chinese government must be forced to shut down all wet markets. These markets are not a part of Chinese tradition but are instead a dirty by-product of the reprivatization of food production in the 1970s. After farmland was redistributed to individuals, large scale operations began dominating the production of traditional products such as chicken and beef. This caused smaller farmers to begin the large scale wildlife farming operations to sustain themselves.

Today, these wet markets are home to the most unhygienic and inhumane conditions on Earth. There are reports of crates of animals stacked on top of each other, and pangolins covered by the blood, puss and feces of their slightly more fortunate upstairs neighbors. Endangered species such as rhinos and bears are killed for their supposed medicinal properties. 

According to University of Houston-Downtown professor Peter J. Li, these conditions are only allowed to exist because of the immense lobbying power that the wildlife farming industry has. He pointed out that only a small minority of rich and powerful oligarchs are the primary consumers of these exotic meats. These people have been using their influence since the SARS epidemic in 2003 to ensure this practice doesn’t end. But these practices must end. They have no place in the modern world.

Secondly, China needs to be punished for the failed cover-up of the severity of COVID-19. Dr. Li Wenliang was reprimanded after he blew the whistle on the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. He was accused of “spreading rumors” and died of the virus in police custody. This behavior on the part of the Chinese government is unacceptable but is also nothing new. The Chinese government has long been known to “lose track” of its critics and restrict the spread of ideas that question the government’s power. 

Along with suppressing voices within its borders, China has been using its influence on social media and within the United Nations in an attempt to save its reputation. The Chinese government lied to the international community by hiding evidence of human-to-human transmission. The Chinese Global Television Network has been trying to paint China as a world leader in fighting COVID-19 when they were ones who let it get out of control in the first place. 

If the world is going to be able to respond to a future outbreak, countries all over the globe need to be honest with each other and allow their people to speak freely. I am not calling for these things in a fit of extreme nationalism. Instead, I am urging everyone to remember that the Chinese government has consistently put economic prosperity first, oligarchical class ahead of the freedom and safety of all of its people and now the world. COVID-19 is yet another reminder.