Jun 6, 2020


The Covid-19 pandemic has posed immense challenges to the economic and political stability of a nation. It has questioned the efficacy of health care systems worldwide, followed by a more significant debate upon the cogency of the political system in every country regarding tackling of this pandemic. One such nation facing backlash not only in the national domain but also internationally is China. Several countries are leveling allegations against China, where the virus originated. Apart from public condemnation, countries are even resorting to penalizing China through measures that might affect its economy and disturb its stability. The essay undertakes to explain the contention against China for not containing the virus at an early stage, followed by China’s response and the long-term global repercussions of this denunciation. 


Initial cases of the sudden outbreak of novel Coronavirus were recorded in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China. China reported the cases to the WHO Country Office on December 30, 2019. The outbreak was declared a public health emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020. On February 11, 2020, WHO named this disease Covid-19.Also known as SARS-CoV-2, it is a contagious disease that spreads from person to person through close contact. The first case of Covid-19 in the UK was recorded on January, 31st 2020. By March 8, 2020, the number of cases across the world crossed more than a lakh. On March 11, 2020, WHO declares the disease a pandemic. The countries worst hit were Spain, the USA, Italy, and Iran, followed by an increasing number of cases in the UK, one of its victims being the Prime Minister of UK, Boris Johnson. By April 1, 2020, cases cross one million marks globally. In the meantime, China was medically well-equipped to combat the pandemic, and gradually the lockdown imposed on Wuhan was lifted, resuming normalcy of daily affairs in China. On the other hand, cases in the global superpower, the United States increased at an increasing rate with rapid mortality. Without any composure, Coronavirus spread all across the globe affecting Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, etc. Some countries who have previously faced the SARS outbreak like South Korea managed to flatten their curve depicting the number of cases, through quick and aggressive testing. Presently the USA has reported the highest mortality rate followed by the UK, Italy, France, Spain, and Brazil. It is essential to note that China's mortality is within 5000, which is less than 20% of that of the USA.


The existing state of affairs in China is influenced by (1) Retaliation by Hong Kong’s citizens on Beijing’s decision to create laws for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism, and foreign interference and station a security and intelligence agency in Hong Kong. (2) In view of China's attempt to gain greater control over Hong Kong, stripping of special status by the United States to the global financial hub, Hong Kong. (3) China’s standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India, regarding varying perceptions about the boundaries of LAC. (4) Britain's initiative formed a club of 10 nations that could develop its 5G technology and reduce its dependence on Huawei, a multinational Chinese technological company. (5) Increasing support of the Trump administration with arms sales and laws to help Taiwan deal with pressure from China. (6) The global backlash that has cost China its goodwill.


The pandemic that originated in China has infected more than 6 million people and killed more than 3 lakh people worldwide. A global agitation is building against China for its initial mishandling of the pandemic that led to its dispersion across the globe, affecting lives, livelihoods, and economies at a large scale causing a devastating long term impact, that'll take time to reconcile and harmonize, thereby leaving a distressing condition for China to fulfill its ambition of overpowering US to become a superpower.

ALLEGATIONS BY THE UNITED STATES: President Trump is determined to make China pay for the damages and losses caused worldwide. Several bills have been proposed by the Republican members of Congress seeking to strip China of its sovereign immunity protection in US courts, leaving China open to lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in compensation for its failure in containing the Coronavirus. Trump had gone to the extent of calling Coronavirus as 'Chinese virus.' Class action lawsuits claiming compensation have been filed in the federal courts of Miami, California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Trump has been pressing China to agree for an inquiry into the origin of the virus, including the allegation that it emerged from a bio-lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. China’s foreign ministry has responded with veiled threats of retaliation, stating that the U.S. has never been made to pay for the damage wrought by the AIDS epidemic, the 2008 global financial crisis, or the 2009 H1N1 flu strain, which was first detected in the U.S. and killed 200,000 people in more than 200 countries. (China’s ambassador to the U.S. wrote in the Washington Post on May 5, “To ask a victim for compensation is ridiculous. China believes the USA has been shirking its responsibilities and politically manipulating the situation by framing China thereby covering up its inability to administer the pandemic.

ALLEGATIONS BY OTHER COUNTRIES: Australia welcomed international support from a coalition of African and European countries, and New Zealand for an independent coronavirus pandemic investigation. In response, China ratcheted up bilateral trade rifts by placing tariffs of around 80% on Australian barley and banning meat imports. New Zealand also backed a role for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly to re-enter as an observer, which China claims to be hugely disappointing. In an article titled ‘What China owes us’ in Germany's largest newspaper 'Bild,' China was slapped with a $165 billion bill for damages inflicted on Germany due to the Covid-19 outbreak began in Wuhan. Responding to the article, the Chinese embassy in Berlin stirs up nationalism, prejudice, xenophobia, and hostility to China. The deputy prime minister of Japan held that the World Health Organization must be changed to Chinese Health Organization, as he accused the global body of giving in to China's spin about Covid-19. Japan had invested $12.35 billion for the Tokyo Olympic, which went to the drain.


China and Russia are threatening counter lawsuits against those countries which are enquiring too much about China. According to Beijing's official mouthpiece, The Global Times, China and Russia will start by initiating an investigation into US-owned bio-labs. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants the Trump administration to come clean on the existence of bio-labs on US soil and pay damages for using the word 'Chinese Virus.' Russia wants the US to clarify the presence of overseas bio-labs along its borders. It is concerned about US labs functioning in neighboring countries such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia. Russian intelligence doubts that the Trump government could be hiding biological weapons in these countries, a claim which now has the support of the Chinese foreign ministry. China, with Russia by its side, is considering punitive counter-measures against anybody who files a lawsuit against it in the United States.


Under international law, countries are sovereign equals. This means that one state can't ordinarily exercise jurisdiction over another. The spate of private class-action lawsuits filed against China for allegedly concealing the initial outbreak of novel coronavirus neglect this fundamental principle, and aren't likely to succeed. There is no realistic possibility that China will repay damages. It’s easy to imagine that China would refuse to participate in legal proceedings if named as a defendant in a lawsuit under one of the statutes now being floated in Congress. But even if China didn't show up to court, plaintiffs would still have to prove that the Chinese state "discharged a biological agent" or "deliberately concealed" the virus, according to the language employed in two of the Senate bills. That could be a steep challenge, as would any effort to enforce a favorable judgment by seizing Chinese assets in the United States. The United States’ rule-of-law system and its global presence are strengths that can also be vulnerabilities. Lacking the support of a multilateral coalition behind Congress’s pursuit of accountability through litigation, Washington could see retaliation by Beijing that won’t be subject to the same “due process” constraints that apply in U.S. courts.

Diplomacy and dialogue are a more promising way to ensure economic and political harmony between the nations compared to mocking each other on international platforms.