I hold Xi Jinping guilty of starting the coronavirus pandemic, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has now caused thousands of deaths around the world and an economic recession that will ravage all of us for years. My accusation is well-founded and well-documented. Early last December, a young doctor at a Wuhan hospital discovered the first case of illness caused by a heretofore unknown virus. He immediately established the link with an earlier epidemic that had begun in the same place and under the same circumstances, in 2002–2003: SARS, a viral pneumonia. The doctor, Li Wenliang, 37 years old, who died in February from exposure to the patients whom he cared for, had immediately posted his diagnosis on the hospital’s internal website in order to inform his colleagues. He was called before a disciplinary council of the local Communist Party and forced to repent and confess, in writing, that he had spread rumors harmful to the glory of the Party. A month later—a month too late—after further suppressing evidence from brave medical professionals, the Party recognized the explosive nature of the epidemic, which could have been confined to Wuhan but was now spreading throughout China, and then the world.
What is Xi Jinping guilty of? Though he did not invent the ideology of the lie, which is the true Constitution of China’s Communist Party, he has considerably reinforced it since taking power. We must therefore consider that the Party bureaucrats, driven by fear and ambition, are chiefly servile agents. In a regime as centralized as China’s, there is only one undeniably guilty party—the president. We can be sure that Xi is aware of his responsibility, since he has launched a dual propaganda offensive aimed at the Chinese people and at the international community. The point was at first to persuade the Chinese people that they, led by the Party, were about to win a great victory against the epidemic, and that this victorious struggle was a model for the rest of the world. To transform defeats into victories is characteristic of totalitarian regimes.
The diplomatic offensive is bolder still. Party hardliners have threatened to cut off U.S. access to pharmaceuticals. They would have the world believe that the virus is not of Chinese origin, but was planted in Wuhan by the United States military. Here, again, we recognize a familiar method of totalitarian regimes: a very big lie leaves fewer traces than a little false witness. Chinese opinion having been muzzled, it’s hard to know what the people think, but social networks provide clues—contempt, hatred, and despondency in the face of Xi’s dictatorship.
Should we in the West remain spectators of the tragedy? We do not have the means to bring Xi before any international tribunal, but many Chinese, the first victims of this epidemic, would thank us if we referred him. Should we not thoroughly reconsider our relations with the Beijing dictatorship, at the level of governments, churches, media, and tourists? The looming economic recession illustrates how our dependence on Chinese suppliers was a poorly calculated risk; it is time to reroute our supply chains and to spread them around the world. It has been truly frightening in the current crisis to discover that most American medications are manufactured in China. (Legislation has been introduced in Washington to begin the process of repatriating American pharmaceutical manufacturing.)
Beyond such changes in economic strategy, which call for a new form of globalization, it is high time to denounce the threat posed by Xi and the Communist Party. Like useful idiots, we have not only helped the Party prosper but, even worse, we have given up on our humanitarian, democratic, and spiritual values in doing so. Some take this renunciation to be a form of respect for Chinese civilization, but they are wrong. The Chinese know what democracy is: Liu Xiaobo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, died defending it. The Chinese know about God: several million are Christians and Muslims, while others are secretly loyal to China’s ancient religions, Buddhism and Taoism. We tremble at the prospect of recognition of the Chinese regime by the Vatican; this would be a pact with the devil. Let us, finally, dare to say it and to act accordingly: the Chinese Communist Party under Xi is America’s main military adversary, one that acts by espionage, by the ongoing conquest of the China Sea, and by the manipulation of North Korea’s puppet regime.
The time has come to say to Xi: “Enough!” In doing so, we will do right by ourselves and by hundreds of millions of Chinese, who will applaud.