Congress should turn its investigative attention on China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic. There is no doubt that coronavirus is a health and economic crisis of unique scale. There is also ample evidence that the disease began there. Finding out how great a role China’s government has had in it is central to fighting this outbreak and preventing future ones.
Coronavirus is a global pandemic. That alone should indicate its impact; but it does not begin to do it justice. Apart from its substantial and still rising death toll, its economic one follows like aftershocks behind an earthquake.
America alone has one million confirmed cases and over 56,000 deaths. Tens of millions are unemployed. The physical and economic costs are not close to fully being counted and may never be. There is reason to believe life will not return to its previous normalcy and certainly will not for some time.
Three months ago, it would have been inconceivable to say the world’s most powerful and wealthiest nation would be in lockdown. No war, no terrorist attack, no disease has ever inflicted this.
Coronavirus’s global impact has spawned a global responsibility, yet it is one the Chinese government has refused — and continues to refuse — to accept.
Those are just the U.S. impacts. Globally, there are three million cases and around 210,000 deaths — so far. Of course, these will climb, especially as coronavirus migrates more remotely into areas less able to combat it. The world’s economic impact could reverberate for years, living standards falling commensurately.
Clearly, coronavirus’s direct and indirect impacts are staggering and will be for some time. Equally clearly, coronavirus started in Wuhan, China. Less clear, but even more concerning, are reports that it came from a lab in China — a lab that had sparked safety concerns from U.S. diplomats just two years ago.
The Chinese government has denied any link between coronavirus and the Wuhan lab. But the Chinese government has been anything but forthcoming throughout the coronavirus crisis. Even if not directly culpable, it has not been credible, to the point that its lack of candor has made them indirectly indictable.
The seriousness of the crisis and the origin of the disease are ample reasons for an investigation of the Chinese government’s role in it. Coronavirus’s global impact has spawned a global responsibility, yet it is one the Chinese government has refused — and continues to refuse — to accept.
Their lack of transparency gave coronavirus the time needed to become a global pandemic. It is worth determining if the Chinese government went beyond this sin of omission to one of commission. What was the lab doing and why? What was its skill level? Will continue its work, or, more ominously, escalate it?
Even if the Chinese government had no direct hand in coronavirus’s release, it would be invaluable to know what was done to prevent its spread. Also, it would be useful to know how to prevent a recurrence.
These answers could help protect people’s safety now and going forward. If nothing else, America and the world deserve answers for the suffering and cost endured.
It is time to discover with what we are dealing, not just in coronavirus, but in China’s government.
Compared to all the investigations the House undertook last year, and all they surely intend to undertake regarding the spending of CARES Act funds, the role of the Chinese government in the coronavirus crisis easily dwarfs those in importance. Pursuing such an investigation would elevate Congress from “gotcha” to “got your back.”
Critics will say such investigation will be extremely hard. The subject matter is complicated; the COVID-19 pandemic’s details are complex and convoluted; and the Chinese government will be, as it has been, uncooperative. Its very difficulty, however, argues for such investigation.
Certainly, the Chinese government will not willingly give answers, so another government must try to. The news media’s histrionic coverage has proved it utterly unfit for so important a job. The World Health Organization? It has shown itself more worthy of investigation than investigating.
There is no one else but Congress, acting in bipartisan fashion, to undertake such an investigation. Never has an investigation been more warranted. Never have there been more important questions — literally of life and death — to be answered. America’s former UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, has launched a petition calling for just such a congressional investigation; she is absolutely correct.
It is time to discover with what we are dealing, not just in coronavirus, but in China’s government. For too long we have indulged the fantasy that China’s government is not unlike others — all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Coronavirus is the withstanding evidence.
The question is how false has China’s government played America, the world, and its own people. The answer is yet to come. One thing is certain: It will not come from China’s government. Absent official investigation and public details, China’s government will resume operation as before. And that is precisely what put the world at the mercy of a merciless global pandemic.
J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.