… [T]he culpability of the Chinese government in the disaster that is playing out around the world is discussed, if it is discussed at all, in the most muffled way. There is a long history of attaching geographic names to diseases. If the present instances are unfair to the Chinese people, who have suffered massively from the outbreak, a better name would be “Xi’s disease.”
Indeed, we do not blame the Chinese people for the fact that a novel coronavirus cropped up in Wuhan. We blame the government in Beijing for making the problem dramatically worse by trying to cover it up, for its ridiculous efforts to try to shift blame for the epidemic onto the United States and others, and for its ongoing attempts to veil its own shameful incompetence by expelling journalists from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.
Beijing’s vanity — and its insecurity — gave the coronavirus “a critical monthlong head start,” as James Palmer put it in Foreign Policy. The Communist Party machine that rules 1.4 billion people in China may look like an immovable monolith, but it has weaknesses and fissures. The Chinese people at large may not feel much sympathy for the despised Uighur minority, but they know that if the Uighurs can be rounded up and put in concentration camps, then so can they. They have watched as the government of Xi Jinping has violated the terms of the settlement under which, in theory, Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy a high degree of autonomy and self-rule. They have seen the brutal suppression of dissidents at home and Beijing’s attempts, too often successful, to bully its neighbors and trading partners. They know firsthand the bottomless corruption of the Chinese ruling elite.