Breaking China’s Medical Supply Monopoly. Rebuilding Ours.
The United States entered the year buoyed by the best economy in our lifetime, with more Americans earning a paycheck than ever before, historically low unemployment, rising incomes, and flourishing GDP. The country was feeling good — great, even.
With the economy on such solid footing, individuals and businesses alike had the confidence to expand their interests and investments in projects and developments not just for today, but for tomorrow’s success. In the beginning of the year, Congress was celebrating the passage of a historic trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the United States was standing up for democracy in Hong Kong, and House Republicans were rolling out an exciting plan to revive industrial America while lowering global emissions.
Not many were aware that simultaneously circulating in the background for weeks was a highly transmissible respiratory disease eager to infect millions of unsuspecting humans.
But we now know that a handful of people were aware of this threat. This information was deliberately hidden from the public at the most critical time by the Communist Party of China — a government obsessed with control and not at all interested in international rules of law.
As we fight the virus, we are also fighting to get the truth from China. Given the answer is in the hands of a government whose power rests on secrecy and survives on coverups and censorship, the world might never know.
Here is an abbreviated version of what we do know, thanks to research from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
- The earliest known case of what is now COVID-19 was a patient who felt symptoms on December 10, 2019.
- By December 27, Chinese health authorities were told by Zhang Jixian, a doctor from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, that a new strand of coronavirus was causing an illness in roughly 180 people.
- Chinese doctors began to realize around this time that the virus could spread from human-to-human contact, something Chinese officials would publicly deny for weeks.
- In the following days, the Chinese government not only ordered institutions to stop publishing information related to the illness, but also “ordered labs to transfer any samples they had to designated testing institutions, or to destroy them.”
- Less than a month later, a man in his 30s who had traveled from Wuhan would be diagnosed with novel coronavirus in Washington state, one day after Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the global community of a likely pandemic.
- That warning came six days after he and Chinese government officials had already privately determined that threat. By then, thousands of people had already been infected and were continuing to travel around the world.
Throughout this time, the voices of those who issued early warnings were habitually silenced. To this day, China continues to alter its data and underreport the extent to which its country is suffering, creating a shroud of doubt about the true state of China’s crisis. This is all not to mention the confusion over the origin of the disease itself (something Chinese officials have also lied about).
U.S. intelligence officials are now investigating the possibility that an accident at a Chinese biological laboratory in Wuhan might have released the virus to the world, and as was recently reported, the safety of these labs have been in question for years.
Now, new policies instituted this month in China are causing a massive backlog of personal protective equipment (PPE) ready to be shipped to the U.S. This critical gear is sitting in warehouses across China, according to a Wall Street Journal report, and a Shanghai official signaled to conglomerate 3M “that lifting restrictions on distribution of the company’s masks would require instructions from Beijing.”
The Chinese government might excuse these actions for quality control, but what was its reasoning a few months ago, before the rest of the world even heard about this disease?
While the Chinese government was going out of its way to downplay the coronavirus threat, it was simultaneously nationalizing the manufacturing facilities of multinationals that produce PPE in China in a clear effort to ensure they had sufficient access to PPE for themselves. Various Chinese entities around the world aggressively sourced PPE to send back to China as well, causing shortages in and at the expense of other countries.