Features
03.25.2020
10 minutes

In wars, men die.

President Trump has taken bold and decisive steps to stop the spread of the Wuhan virus across America. In doing so, he has become a wartime president. But the enemy he is fighting is the Chinese Communist Party. Long before this crisis, the CCP was waging political and economic war against the United States. The Wuhan virus is merely another weapon in this war. As a nation we need to understand this immediately, since the first casualty has been the material well-being of the American people.

Our Foe

Let us first consider our enemy.

The Chinese Communist Party, led by Chairman Xi Jinping, has a membership of 90 million out of a country of 1.4 billion. Not all may be doctrinaire Marxists or Maoists, but they form a ruling elite for a regime that has managed to bring wealth and prestige to a once-poor people. They have overseen the building of a modern industrial base, and the creation of a first-world military complete with an advanced nuclear arsenal. Their intelligence services are larger and more sophisticated than those of any other nation on earth.

At the heart of China’s communist ideology is a deep-seated resentment against the world. After the Century of Humiliation where China was exploited by the Western powers, Russia, and Japan, they are committed to never letting that happen again.

If one doubts the CCP’s resolve, one need look no further than the fact that they have killed, through famine and other means, almost 100 million of their own countrymen in a series of communist social and economic reforms they believed necessary to modernize their country. In other words, these are not a people to be taken lightly. The presidency of Donald Trump presents the greatest strategic threat to their desire to establish themselves as the world’s preeminent economic and military power.

Although it is not the position of our government that the CCP was behind the creation and weaponization of the Chinese virus, we need to at least entertain the notion that a nation that has, in the recent past, killed tens of millions of its own people would not think twice about killing thousands or even millions of other peoples from other countries if it meant putting them in a greater strategic position and helping them fulfill their objective of a communist world order.

What is indisputable is the fact that the CCP almost immediately began to position the virus as a political and economic weapon against the United States. Whether the virus occurred naturally or was accidentally released from a laboratory, our Center for Disease Control was not, and has not, been given access to Wuhan. Either there was something they wanted to keep from the United States, or they sought to send a hostile message to the United States about their intentions.

A Mighty Sea

Although the origin of the virus may be unknowable for now, the Chinese response was unambiguous. The CCP’s Xinhua news service threatened Americans that they could plunge us into a “mighty sea of coronavirus” since it was they who controlled the supply chain for the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in the production of 90% of our medicines.

This overt threat to the security of the American people was followed by a government spokesman propagating the lie that the U.S. military created and spread the virus in Wuhan. Their intelligence services also pushed the narrative that they did not even know where the virus came from, that it was likely an invention of the CIA, and that the world should be thankful for the CCP’s quick response. In war, this is what propaganda looks like.

What Didn’t Happen

Consider the possible alternatives.

When the virus broke out, the CCP could have immediately given open access to the United States and other countries with advanced healthcare systems in the hopes of trying to save lives both in China and those countries around the world that would inevitably be exposed to the virus. Open access would have been a signal to the world that China was a responsible global actor concerned about both the welfare of its own people and those of the world. Such action would have clearly communicated that our shared prosperity and well-being would require a global response.

The United States and the world would have opened their arms and their laboratories to help China get through this awful mess as quickly as possible. Each nation’s own self-interest would have dictated as much. Instead the CCP did the exact opposite. The United States was denied access and uncertainty about the virus increased dramatically throughout the world.

This uncertainty has led to greater fear and animosity about the lethality of the Wuhan virus than was necessary. So far the virus seems to impact different populations in different ways. It’s not yet clear exactly what threat profile it presents to America as a whole. But the fact that we don’t know has led us to err on the side of caution and treat this virus like a 1918-level event. The consequence has been a shutdown of the largest economy in the world.

Without putting too fine a point on it, China seems to have taken the position that if they were to suffer the coronavirus, so too was the United States and the rest of the world. What else is to explain the continuation of flights from China to the United States at the rate of some 20,000 passengers a day, until President Trump wisely shut them down?

The Chinese economy was already suffering the consequences of President Trump’s America First policies. Not only had tough trade deals been struck, but serious efforts were underway by the Trump Administration to stop the trillions being stolen in U.S. intellectual property, the CCP’s aggressive industrial espionage, and their sophisticated political influence operations throughout the United States. From the CCP’s point of view, their fundamental business model was under attack.

Given the problems in the Chinese economy that arose as a result of the ongoing trade war with the United States and Donald Trump, the CCP and Xi Jinping appear to have made the calculation that a crisis caused by the virus would be preferable. A virus-induced crisis would include the added benefit of  slowing down the U.S. economy and might reset American politics as well. However popular President Trump might be, it would be difficult in an election year to handle an economic crisis of this magnitude without suffering some political consequences. That this does not make economic sense for China in the short run is rather beside the point. They are playing a much longer game.

Get America Back to Work

Our immediate crisis is not only about the loss of life we will suffer from the Wuhan virus. President Trump has mobilized the economic and industrial engine of the United States to build the capacity to deal with the medical challenges that are about to occur. In a more fundamental sense, this is about our ability as a nation to wage war and defend our way of life.

This challenge is primarily intellectual. We must disenthrall ourselves of globalism. That we would allow the United States to have a key strategic commodity like medicine produced outside the country suggests a kind of death wish unbefitting of a free people. Although Wall Street kingpins will recoil from what they will perceive as a pull back from the rest of the world, our response must be a national commitment to relocate strategic global supply chains back to the United States. This kind of common-sense investment will be part of healing our broken economy.

Right now, the Communist Chinese are more than happy to have the United States on lockdown as long as possible. Every day that goes by, millions of American workers—deplorables if you will—are sitting home, many of them unemployed, and worried about their future. Efforts to reopen the economy are being met with calls for it to stay shut lest the virus spread. Democrat governors who oppose President Trump and members of the federal government’s scientific/medical community—who allowed us to be so ill-prepared in the first place—have little incentive to push for a reopening.

We need to take reasonable measures to prevent the spread of the virus. But the President needs to get Americans back to work as soon as possible. In wars men die. This war with the CCP is no different. As precious as we Americans believe each life is, this is about our freedom and our economic ability to defend that freedom. That will only happen when we are back to work and building the industrial capacity that will free us from Communist China. This can happen none too soon.

is President of the American Strategy Group, Chairman of the Committee on the Present Danger: China, and a Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute.