Did China Hide the Coronavirus to Help Get U.S.-China Trade Deal Done?


The COVID-19 pandemic began in Wuhan, China in early December and may have been the result of an accident at a virology lab there.

And according to a “Five Eyes” intelligence report quoted by the Australian newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, China hid the truth from the world when it might have mattered, “Despite evidence of human-human transmission from early December, PRC authorities deny it until January 20… The World Health Organisation does the same. Yet officials in Taiwan raised concerns as early as December 31, as did experts in Hong Kong on January 4.”

Yet, it would not be until Jan. 20 that China confirmed human-to-human transmission,  several weeks after the outbreak began, when high mortality rates were not yet apparent to the rest of the world. But on Jan. 24, China would lock down Wuhan and the surrounding region. A day later, on Jan. 25, the first doctor to treat the virus and who tried to warn the world about it died from it in China.

Now more than 274,000 people are dead worldwide, whether by China’s omission by incompetence or something more, paralyzing the global economy. More than 30 million jobs have been lost in the U.S. alone, with perhaps the worse yet to come as schools, businesses and government offices largely remain closed.

It is incumbent on China to prove to the world they are a reliable international partner. Beijing needs to come clean about the origin of this virus. There are also other commitments President Donald Trump and his administration ought to be keeping an eye on as well, including the U.S.-China trade deal that was signed on Jan. 15, the same day the virus first arrived in the U.S. in Washington State.

So, was China keeping the virus under wraps to try to get the trade deal done? What lengths would Beijing go to in order to secure its position as a global trade hegemon?

Now reports abound that China may not be keeping its end of the trade bargain, either, with only one-third of the $186 billion of promised purchases are now projected to be made, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Because there need to be consequences for all this.

Americans for Limited Government is sponsoring a petition at Whitehouse.gov to urge President Trump to “[i]ssue an executive order to eliminate our dependence on China for manufacturing important pharmaceutical and medical products… [c]reate an investigative team to assess the Chinese Communist Party’s role in covering up and spreading the pandemic… [and r]estrict China’s influence on our universities.”

In addition, one course of action the President might consider is to bar China from making any further purchases of U.S. treasuries. Why? China needs to keep buying treasuries to exert its trade advantage. Currently it holds a little less than $1.1. trillion and is the world’s second largest holder. Exporters tend to stockpile dollar-denominated assets to weaken the local currency. Without treasuries to fall back on, the yuan could appreciate vis a vis the dollar, even with the fixed exchange rate.

And despite more than $3 trillion of new treasuries to be issued by June to pay for all of the new government spending response to the pandemic-directed economic closures, interest rates are collapsing and the U.S. dollar has never been stronger.

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That is because central banks and financial institutions all over the world are flooding into U.S. treasuries and other dollar-denominated assets in a flight to safety. That means there is surplus demand for dollars, and not even the torrent of deficit-spending can keep up with that demand presently.

As a result, until the dollar gets much weaker, we should expect unemployment to continue rising, too, as in past economic cycles.

Other risks associated with the strong dollar besides rising unemployment include deflation, collapsing home prices and perverse incentives for Americans not to pay their mortgages. We could see another financial crisis because of all this.

And that’s just the beginning.

All because China apparently thought it needed to keep the coronavirus under wraps. President Trump should give Beijing a week to come out with the truth to the world about what it knew and when it knew it about the virus and to make good on the U.S.-China trade deal—or all bets are off.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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