Most Americans are horrified at the havoc the coronavirus has wrought on the U.S. and its economy - everything from lockdowns to school and church shutdowns, to missing products on store shelves, to business closures and layoffs, to travel and tourism restrictions, to the stock crash, to isolated elderly people being protected from harm's way. That's in addition to those who have been directly hit by the virus, some severely, and our horror at what is happening in Italy.
The only thing that keeps us going is the prospect of ... getting through it.
But in a Fox News appearance on "Hannity," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an important warning -- that there has to be some kind of reckoning from China or else the upheaval is going to happen again:
"They haven't been sufficiently transparent and the risk you find [is] if we don't get this right, if we don't get to the bottom of this, is this could be something that is repeatable," Pompeo warned. "Maybe not in this form, maybe not in this way, but transparency matters."
All a killer virus really needs is time and travel, and those are the two things China enabled as it sought to repress news of the problem in Wuhan, and then threw critics and whistleblowers in jail.
Instead of this happening once, a black swan of an event, the conditions are there for it to happen again and again and again, the rest of the world stuck cleaning up after it so the Chicoms can stay in power.
There are signs the Chicom government knows there's a public relations problem, for what it's worth. A Chinese government panel has moved to exonerate Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old Wuhan doctor who first warned of the crisis, was cruelly punished for it, and then died of the virus himself, a man who's already become a martyr to the freedom-loving Chinese who oppose the old gray men of Beijing.
Police in China's virus epicentre Wuhan acted "inappropriately" by punishing a doctor who blew the whistle on the outbreak that has now killed more than 9,000 worldwide, a Chinese government investigation found Thursday.
Li Wenliang, one of a group of doctors in Wuhan who shared posts on social media warning of a SARS-like virus spreading in the city in December, was reprimanded by police for sharing the information and made to sign a statement agreeing not to commit any more "law-breaking actions."
Li's death from the virus in February prompted a national outpouring of grief as well as anger at the government's handling of the crisis, and bold demands for freedom of speech.
The police issued an apology after the result of the investigation was published, drawing a new round of criticism on Twitter-like Weibo, with people saying it was too little, too late.
But, as the locals say, it's not good enough. The doctor is dead, so he's an easy one to exonerate. What about the ones who are still in jail for sounding the warnings? They're still there. What about the ones who kept silent even though they also knew what was going on? They're still there, too, and probably an even bigger hurdle for enacting a solution than the now-punished dissidents. It's a system that's a problem, a system that doesn't value free speech, doesn't value transparency of information, yet demands to be part of the free-world global economy as a dominant player.
That's a problem. That's the recipe for a repeat.
AFP notes that the news of the doctor's death was suppressed, and the police official responsible has been given "a demerit," which sounds pretty paltry for a guy whose acts to suppress news of a dangerous pandemic have since wrought this much havoc on the world. AFP notes that locals view this as a matter of Beijing attempting to fob off the crisis on local officials instead of the system itself and its leaders at the top. In this regard, it resembles the Obama administration's efforts to fob off the IRS scandal of spying on tea party dissidents to "the Cincinnati office" as it did. The phenomenon is recognizable.
But there are no 'throw them out' elections in China as there were in America in 2016, so this is a mere public relations move to get to the next news cycle.
What's needed is change -- deep, bona fide change that allows Chinese people to speak out and warn of problems. Communists can't make that sort of reform, so there's reason to worry.
Here are two signs that the problem remains a big one, and the Chicoms are hardly sincere in their efforts to clean up their act:
One, China's expulsion of American foreign correspondents in China from major news agencies. I know a lot of us think they are biased, but foreign news is usually far less politically tinged than domestic news and there are a lot of good reports that come from them. The Chicoms know this, that's why they wanted those reporters out. Suppressing this news is just the same old same old news repression signaling the Chicoms haven't changed a bit.
Two is the grotesque propaganda effort put out by the Chicoms, which disturbingly has a lot of U.S. local media acolytes, happily spouting, based on their tinder-dry hate for President Trump. The Chinese are calling the virus a U.S. military concoction unleashed on the Chinese people, something the media are happy to report as their stance, for one. They're also calling the Trump response, which has been exemplary, "chaotic" in a bid to undermine Trump, something the press here happily carries water for. The Chicoms know how to play these pres clowns like a fiddle and the press's attempts to stop President Trump from calling the virus the "Chinese virus" (or "Wuhan virus" in the case of others), as the Chicoms want, and which were terms the press itself was using a few weeks ago, is disturbing.
Most of us just want to get through this huge disruption to our lives and peace by doing all possible to force the virus to die down. But with China doing nothing to prevent what happened, from happening again in its repression of news, it raises the case further for decoupling from China and isolating its regime like a bacillus, the better to protect the rest of the world from its depredations.