China: Time to get serious

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House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee and President Biden have something in common. They agree that in regard to the COVID-19 crisis, China has been less than transparent. More than 18 months after the supposed beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the deaths of more than 3.4 million people worldwide, the global community still has more questions than answers.

There is the ongoing legitimate debate about the source of COVID-19. When and where exactly was it first discovered in China? When was human-to-human transmission first detected? Was it naturally occurring or was it made in a lab from which it leaked? News this week certainly makes a leak form the Wuhan Institute of Virology seem far more plausible as the source of the global pandemic. Perhaps we would have some answers already had the Biden administration not shut down an investigation started by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the possibility of a leak form the Wuhan lab, as reported by The New York Post and CNN.

The bottom line, however, the global response has been inadequate and the root cause is the unwillingness of the Chinese Communist Party government to be fully transparent. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has actively refused to be a partner with the global community in quickly addressing the threats of COVID-19. By hiding the emergence of COVID, and then hoarding vital supplies before the world knew, the Chinese Communists took a bad situation and made it worse.

It has consistently opposed transparency with the World Health Organization and other international investigative bodies. The Chinese Communist Party has used its control of the supply and manufacture of personal protective equipment to pressure other countries to temper their criticism of China. In some cases, the Chinese have threatened supply chains if countries did not praise China for “assisting” them. Rahm Emmanuel is famous for saying, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Based on its behavior, it is clear China’s communist government has learned that lesson.

Now that there is bipartisan consensus that China is a bad faith actor, it is time to get serious about holding it to account. It is also time for the global health community and other countries to hold China accountable. I propose the following five steps, which can be implemented right now.

First, we must use Chinese access to western markets for the leverage it is. Impose tariffs on Chinese imports into our countries. Use an all-of-government pressure campaign to force China to release all the information it has and allow researchers in to conduct fully independent research of the pandemic.

Second, we must develop alternative supply chains. The COVID pandemic demonstrated how vulnerable and reliant the U.S. and our allies are to products from China for healthcare and other critical goods. As U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, it was disappointing to witness the Dutch being dependent on KLM flights from China to receive vital supplies. The West must develop supply chains independent of China so that China never has this kind of leverage over Western actions again.

Third, do not waive patent protections for the vaccines that have been developed. American pharmaceutical companies are a gem within the U.S. economy. Through operation Warp Speed, the companies developed not one, but multiple vaccines to protect the global community from COVID. The biggest beneficiary of waiving patent protections would be China. The Chinese communists already steal enough of our intellectual property, so why would we voluntarily transfer our pharmaceutical intellectual property to China?

Fourth, we should stop funding health related research with China. Recent reports highlight that an international team working in China created 132 human-monkey embryos. This activity by itself raises many ethical questions, but in light of its actions during COVID, does anyone believe China is a good partner in this extremely sensitive type of cutting-edge research? Can we trust a country that two successive administrations have determined is engaged in genocide against its Muslim Uyghur citizens to put in place the proper protocols to restrict this new research?

Finally, the U.S. should lead the world in a boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in China. Participation is tantamount to condoning and rewarding the Chinese for its nefarious conduct. The Chinese Uyghur genocide alone should be enough reason for an international Olympic boycott, but the growing probability that a Chinese lab leak is responsible for killing millions across the globe has to be the final straw.

While progress is being made in the battle to contain COVID thanks to the ingenuity of the American and Western pharmaceutical industry, we need full transparency to fully exit this crisis and be prepared for the next. The Chinese Communist government has shown itself over-and-over to be a bad partner. The time is far past for the United States and others in the West to rein in the Chinese Communist Party-led China. We must hold it accountable for the lack of transparency, and the deaths of millions, during the COVID pandemic.

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