Chinese wet market, like the one where COVID-19 originated. Photo credit: Flickr

By Jon Dougherty @TheNatSent

(TNS) Increasingly, diplomats, politicians, pundits, and analysts are calling for some sort of action against China to hold it ‘accountable’ for the creation and spread of Wuhan coronavirus.

The kind of action preferred this far appears to be some form of “legal” accountability. Like with lawsuits.

Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post is the latest pundit to offer up this solution. He writes:

The costs of the pandemic keep piling up. Hundreds of millions of Americans are on lockdown, a record 16.8 million have filed unemployment claims, nearly 15,000 Americans have died so far and the death toll is growing exponentially by the day. Congress has passed three coronavirus relief bills totaling $2.3 trillion, and more might soon be in the works.

Somebody has to pay for this unprecedented damage. That somebody should be the government of China. …

It took Beijing more than two months after the first case appeared to impose that lockdown. That coverup had deadly consequences. A University of Southampton study found that if Beijing acted just three weeks sooner, the number of covid-19 cases might have been reduced by 95 percent — which would have prevented a pandemic.

And China’s lies and obstruction are ongoing. The U.S. intelligence community has reportedly concluded that Beijing is underreporting both total cases and deaths it has suffered from covid-19 — denying U.S. scientists accurate data they need to understand how the virus behaves. This is more than mere negligence; it is active disinformation and obstruction.

Thiessen goes on to note, accurately, that China’s cover-up is continuing, as noted by U.S. intelligence reports. He also mentions that there is increasing evidence that the virus might have inadvertently escaped a Chinese Level 4 bioresearch lab, the only one in the country — which is located in Wuhan city, COVID-19’s place of origin.

He continues:

China must be held to account for its lies and obstruction. U.S. health-care workers and business owners recently filed the first lawsuits against the Chinese Communist Party for its complicity in this pandemic. Congress should help them and others by lifting China’s statutorily granted sovereign immunity and allowing the individuals and businesses harmed by China’s actions to sue Beijing for damages.

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There is precedent for doing so. In 2016, Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which permitted victims and survivors to sue Saudi Arabia for complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Because of Beijing’s lies, we are now in the midst of a pandemic 9/11. The victims should have a right to sue China for these damages.

China would not be able to ignore such lawsuits. As former Justice Department official David Rivkin told me, “Once default judgments are obtained, they can be used to seize any Chinese commercial assets, including any proceeds of Chinese exports anywhere in the world.” But, Rivkin says, the benefit is not just recovery of money damages for the victims. “Litigation discovery,” he said, “is a great vehicle for fact-finding.” We have only scratched the surface of China’s complicity in this pandemic. The best way to uncover the truth might be through the U.S. legal system. 

Others have made similar arguments. But while this might be the Kennedy School of Government’s preferred answer in a Foreign Policy 101 course, it’s lunacy.

The Chinese have been ‘taken to court’ in the past. In 2016, the five-judge Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration “issued a highly anticipated and unanimous award in Republic of Philippines v. People’s Republic of China, a case filed in 2013 by Manila concerning maritime entitlements and the status of features in the South China Sea, among other issues,” The Diplomat reported.

The case involved China’s outsized claim to virtually all of the South China Sea, where it was already busy constructing and arming manmade islands to enforce those claims.

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The ruling was meaningless because while the Philippines ‘won’ the case, they — and the international court — lacked an enforcement mechanism.

China continued its island construction and to this day continues using ‘gray zone’ power to influence its neighbors and enforce its own policies in the region. What will the Philippines do — go to war against China? Because that’s all that’s left. And that’s national suicide.

So what makes western pundits and analysts think that Beijing would respond to lawsuits, even if it loses? Are these people serious when they suggest the United States seize billions of dollars’ worth of China state-owned property and assets? Do they really believe China won’t retaliate — which could lead to war?

That said, there are viable solutions, and others have suggested them, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

A Harvard-trained lawyer, former U.S. Army infantry officer, Iraq war veteran, and China hawk, believes China should “pay” for what it’s done, but not through bogus lawsuits it will simply ignore, or the taking of Chinese assets which will result in tit-for-tat retaliation against American assets and possibly even lead to war.

Cotton wants China to ‘pay’ by moving American manufacturing out of the country, especially the production of vital products like pharmaceuticals.

“The Chinese Communist Party has threatened to cut off America’s access to vital drugs in the midst of a pandemic caused by its own failures. It’s time to pull America’s supply chains for life-saving medicine out of China and make the CCP pay for contributing to this global emergency,” Cotton said last month.

Already, American firms were moving out of China as a result of President Trump’s tariff trade policies, as we have reported. In addition, Japan announced last week it would help pay the cost of relocating Japanese companies out of China.

Getting China to ‘pay’ for the miserable way it handled the spread of this deadly virus by refusing to behave like a first-world country in a world of countries definitely should become a foreign policy priority.

But the way to do isn’t to seize Chinese assets but rather shift American manufacturing out of China and back to our own soil. This will deprive the ChiComs of revenue while bolstering our economy and employing our workers, thereby repaying us for their viral pandemic.

We should be doing this anyway, given the Chinese regime’s constant hacking of our military and industrial secrets and their attempt to monopolize one of the world’s most profitable trade routes.

Trump started the process long before coronavirus; he should definitely finish it.


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