Is China's government telling the truth?

Marcus Roberts
April 11, 2020
Reproduced with Permission

There is only one news story in the world at the moment for obvious reasons. So you will have to forgive me for suspending normal demographic services on this blog and focusing on the Wuhan Virus/COVID-19.

Last week I briefly questioned what impact this global crisis will have on international relations in the years ahead. In particular I wondered what it will do to the West's (especially the USA, and including the East Asian democracies) relationship with the second largest economy in the world, China. This is a country which is also the world's largest dictatorship and a country with a terrible human rights record with woeful civil and political rights for its poor people.

One of the reasons that there will probably be a rethinking (at the very least) in our relationship with China is that the government has lied about the virus, about what they know about it and about the number of people who have actually died because of it.

The lies are many, but Jim Geraghty from the National Review has done an excellent job of plotting a timeline. The full list is staggering and deeply concerning. The Chinese Communist Party is desperate to show that it did an excellent job at curbing the virus and is making sure that those pesky dead relatives are not talked about or mourned too much in case people start to question the true death toll.

Indeed the true death toll there could be 16 times larger than the current 3,000-odd officially reported, according to US intelligence officials. We will never know the true figure, after all the Party stated that only 241 people died at Tiananmen Square - perhaps a tenth of the true figure.

Along similar lines, the Scottish historian and commentator Niall Ferguson has a great piece in the Boston Globe putting forward six questions for the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. Although there is a snowball's chance that they will ever be answered, these questions are useful for distilling some of the lies and cover-ups that the Chinese government have used in the wake of the virus. I found this question particularly enlightening (and enraging):

"Third, after it became clear that there was a full-blown epidemic spreading from Wuhan to the rest of Hubei province, why did you cut off travel from Hubei to the rest of China - on Jan. 23 - but not from Hubei to the rest of the world?"

As for the wider question of China's place in the world, Ferguson concludes:

"…so long as a fifth of humanity are subject to the will of an unaccountable, corrupt, and power-hungry organization with a long history of crimes against its own people, the rest of humanity will not be safe."

We are indeed facing interesting times…