Since late 2019, the COVID pandemic has killed at least 4 million people worldwide. It has shaved a year and a half off of U.S. life expectancy. It has necessitated, or at least excused, the expenditure of trillions of dollars, the accumulation of massive amounts of public debt, and the simultaneous destruction of large portions of the private sector economy. It has kept family and friends apart, even at poignant moments like births, marriages, and deaths. It has upended life as we know it, in short, when it didn't snuff that life out altogether.
For all these reasons, you might think that the genesis of the virus, and the moral and legal responsibility for its spread, would be at the very top of every political, social, and economic leader's agenda. Surely, if ever there was a mystery worth solving, a wrong worth righting, it is the question of how COVID came to be, and who, if anyone, inflicted the dreaded virus on the world.
As it happens, with the recent release of the Addendum to “The Origins of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic” Report from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we are closer than ever to knowing where COVID came from, despite concerted efforts by authorities in China (and America!) to hide the truth. The report concludes that COVID originated in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It was developed by scientists as part of “gain of function” research that intentionally made the disease more infectious. And it was released accidentally by Chinese “experts” who were as reckless in their methodology as they were sloppy in their hygiene.
This is the same conclusion to which an increasing number of medical and scientific experts, intelligence analysts, academics, journalists, and politicians are bowing – and yet no one in a position of authority seems remotely inclined to do anything about it. Extraordinary!
No serious sanctions against China have been levied or proposed. No ambassadors have been recalled. No treaties or billion-dollar business deals have been abrogated. No Chinese influence operations in Western countries have been curtailed. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
This all seems shocking, but, on the other hand, the powers-that-be have for years shown a remarkable level of disinterest in China's misdeeds, writ large – a blind spot about three thousand miles wide, in fact.
We are told, for instance, that climate change represents an “existential threat” to humankind and the Earth's ecosystem, but the world's biggest emitter of carbon, by far, gets a pass, even as those emissions climb inexorably. In fact, China gets fulsomely complimented on its “green” rhetoric, as though posturing alone could “save the planet”.
China meanwhile commits gross human rights violations in Hong Kong, and by many accounts commits genocide against its Uyghur population, and the world says “Tut tut!” and carries on buying Chinese-made iPhones and smart TVs.
China threatens its neighbors, especially Taiwan, and systematically appropriates large portions of the South China Sea. It spies on Western countries and corporations; it hacks our computer systems; it even infiltrates the inner circles of our political leaders...and the best that these leaders can do by way of a response is to rebuke (toothlessly) the Chinese communist government and declare that we in the West will remain watchful, but hopeful – always hopeful – that relations will improve...
The truth, of course, is that the Western political, cultural, and economic elite is so thoroughly compromised by its own ties with China that it cannot bear to bite the hand that feeds it. Moreover, our leaders know that the Chinese exercise so much overt and covert power worldwide that any politician or opinion leader who directly confronts the PRC – like Donald Trump – can expect a chorus of voices to condemn him (or her), and to label his (or her) anti-Chinese rhetoric “racist” and “xenophobic”. And that is the least that might befall an iconoclast who dared to divert from the party line.
What is the only approved narrative re: China? Why, it's that China is a land of wonders, a wellspring of limitless wealth, a fount of ancient wisdom, a far-sighted and visionary place where the technologies and policies of the future are incubated, a rising superpower destined to displace the tired old USA, and, above all (though this part is usually said in a whisper), the ultimate paymaster of hack journalists, up-and-coming academics, and toadying politicians everywhere.
It makes all the sense in the world to mollify such a country. It makes no sense at all to challenge or confront it.
And here we are. By its negligence, the Chinese regime has facilitated the deaths of millions of people worldwide, and more than 600,000 Americans. It has brought our economies to a standstill and buried us under a mountain of debt. It has disrupted our daily lives and our livelihoods. The Chicoms have done all this, while suggesting – with a straight face – that the disease actually came from America, and was an invention of the U.S. military!
The refusal of the U.S. government, and of all Western governments, to stand up for themselves, and for the millions of COVID victims who we have already lost, by confronting China and taking real action to punish the regime and to curtail the one thing that it values in its relationship with the West – trade – is the ultimate condemnation of the fecklessness and incompetence of our leadership class. It is a clear sign that we value electronic doodads more than we value our own self-respect, and more even than we value our own lives.
It is pathetic.
It is shameful.
It is the most bizarre and surreal instance of civilizational suicide history has ever witnessed.
Sadly, it will also embolden the Chinese to do even worse, while our own leaders troll new, even more frightful depths in obsequiousness and treachery.
Why would they sink even lower? Because, lest we forget, our elite has found ways to profit from its own humiliation, and from the wave of terror and death that has washed over us in the last seventeen months. For our “betters”, COVID has in many ways been not a curse, but a blessing. Their power and authority wax ever higher, thanks to our soaring anxieties (and our short attention spans).
They may have good reason, therefore, to exclaim “Thank you, China! May we have another?”
Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.