More and more signs are suggesting that China has been misleading the rest of the world on the number of coronavirus cases it has. At least one source estimates that the number of Chinese who’ve been infected with COVID-19 could be in the millions.
In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead argued that the Chinese government has been deliberately falsifying information about the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths they've had. He noted that U.S. intelligence concluded that China had underreported both the total number of coronavirus cases and the number of deaths from it.
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The Economist studied the numbers reported by China and compared them with the numbers from other countries. The magazine found that the numbers varied widely around political events like replacing local officials.
Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute estimates that China has had 2.9 million coronavirus cases in all. Beijing has only officially reported 82,000 cases.
Why the real numbers matter
Mead noted that the rest of the world has not been fully prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic because of China's apparent lies about the number of coronavirus cases it has had. The falsified numbers also make it difficult for other countries to decide when it will be safe to lift their coronavirus lockdowns.
The world has never gotten close to shutting down the modern economy like it is now, so it's understandable that governments will make mistakes. However, having real data on the number of coronavirus cases could help officials make decisions with fewer costly mistakes.
He said U.S. and Chinese scientists have been cooperating on studying the virus. However, The Guardian reported this week that two top universities in China published guidelines requiring all research papers on the origins of the coronavirus to be approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology before being published. Both universities appear to have deleted those guidelines after posting them.
It seems clear that China has been trying to control the coronavirus narrative even to the extent of changing scientific research.
Mead noted that China cares most about public opinion within its borders. The Chinese Communist Party has been in power for 70 years, and it still relies on "arbitrary rule, brutal repression, eye-popping corruption and massive levels of deception, fraud and abuse," he wrote. He also said that by withholding information and stamping out discussion about COVID-19, Beijing is damaging its international reputation and economic prospects.
"China, which became a major world power by using and sometimes abusing free-trade rules and global supply chains, has now taken an ax to the roots of its own business model," Mead wrote. "If the cost of doing business in China includes increased exposure to ruinous shocks like the pandemic, 'Made in China' doesn't pay. And if Beijing can lie so vociferously and implausibly about the pandemic, can private investors or foreign governments ever rely on its promises?"
China should be held liable for misinformation
In an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, Marc Thiessen of the American Enterprise Institute argued that China should be held legally liable for the damage it has caused in the coronavirus pandemic. He believes China should have to pay for the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.
Almost 2 million people worldwide have been confirmed to have COVID-19, of which nearly 600,000 are Americans. Nearly 25,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus.
While Beijing can't be blamed for a viral outbreak it had no control over, he argues that the Chinese communist regime should be blamed for intentionally lying about the seriousness of the virus. The first case of COVID-19 appeared in Hubei province on Nov. 17, and Chinese officials knew it could be transmitted between humans by mid-December. However, instead of informing the world, they attempted to cover it up and squelched attempts by doctors to warn the rest of the world.
Further, while lying about the severity of COVID-19 and the ease of its spread between humans, Beijing refused to share samples with Washington in preparation of the virus' arrival on U.S. shores. Additionally, it took Chinese authorities over two months after the first case of COVID-19 to lock down Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
A study conducted by the University of Southampton suggested that if China had acted only three weeks sooner, the number of coronavirus cases could have been slashed 95%--preventing a pandemic.
Thiessen called on Congress to lift China's sovereign immunity and allow Americans who have been hurt by the pandemic to sue Beijing for damages. Healthcare workers and business owners have already filed the first lawsuits against the Chinese Communist Party in connection to the pandemic. He added that the benefits of such lawsuits extends beyond monetary damages and provides a way to find out the facts China has been hiding throughout the course of the pandemic.