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China: Mobster Government, Mobster Tactics

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping (Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP)

The Trump administration is reportedly looking at taking legal action against the Chinese Communist government over hoarding personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators, booties, gloves, and other supplies. Ebony Bowden and Bruce Golding report for the New York Post that Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to Trump’s re-election campaign, said: “In criminal law, compare this to the levels that we have for murder.”

She’s talking about China’s refusal to allow 3M — an American company with factories in China — to export their own goods back to the U.S. and to sell them only to China. “People are dying, Ellis told the Post. “When you have intentional, cold-blooded, premeditated action like you have with China, this would be considered first-degree murder.”

Beijing apparently paid 3M the wholesale cost of their goods but like any mobster insisted that 3M be allowed to sell to no one else. This came around the same time China was gobbling up global supplies of PPE goods while keeping secret from the rest of the world just how bad the Wuhan virus outbreak really was. An unnamed official in the Post report said that China is trying to “corner the world market” on protective goods at a time when the world needs them most.

Well, what did 3M expect, putting their production under the supervision of mobsters?

3M — and too many other companies from the U.S. and around the world — put their business under Beijing’s thumb in exchange for cheap labor and lax regulatory enforcement. But when you ask a mobster for a favor, eventually he’ll “ask” for one in return. “Someday,” The Godfather’s Don Vito Corleone assured Bonasera, “and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me.” One doesn’t refuse Don Corleone when he “requests” a service, any more than one can refuse an “offer” from Beijing’s communist thugs. For 3M, the Godfather’s bill came due — but it’s Americans going without PPE who paid it.

What did we expect, allowing a government with Beijing’s callous regard for life to enter the global trade and financial systems? What we had expected, or at least had hoped, was that as Chinese citizens got wealthier under economic liberalization that they would insist on political liberalization. Not only has that not happened but President Xi Jinping has returned China to the kind of one-man gangster rule the people haven’t had to endure since Mao.

The list of Beijing’s thuggery is as long as it is familiar: Ethnic oppression against the Uighurs, ethnic colonization of Tibet, economic colonization of Africa, forced organ harvesting, the growing Orwell-meets-Huxley “social credit” control scheme, and theft of everything from intellectual property to our most-secret defense systems. And we’re supposed to keep turning a blind eye to all this, now that China’s health practices are killing our people, and their mob tactics are preventing us from getting the supplies we need to fight their pandemic?

To hell with all that.

Meanwhile, the China Delusion continues unabated in certain circles. Writing for Foreign Policy, Wendy Cutler and Daniel Russel ask: “Could the Pandemic Ease U.S.-China Tensions?” They open with this:

As the coronavirus circles the globe, it’s proving a startling reminder of just how interconnected our world has become. The virus has moved along our global supply chains, and it can be stopped only with global cooperation. But the war of words between U.S. and Chinese officials last month shows how the pandemic can bring out the worst in the two countries. While the rhetoric has abated somewhat, there is now an opening for both nations to reverse course, and they must act fast—particularly in working together to develop vaccines, proliferate life-saving medical equipment, and keep open vital global supply chains.

Before the Wuhan coronavirus, our Faustian pact with Beijing might have seemed worth it. We’d get our tech and IP ripped off left and right, but in exchange for cheap consumer goods and access to the world’s most populous market. But what does any of that mean when China’s biggest export is a pandemic deadly and infectious enough to stop global trade? Just when we’re learning exactly how delicate our global supply chains are, just when we’re discovering the limits of global cooperation during a crisis, Cutler and Russel and their ilk ask us to double down on the mistakes that got us into this mess.

With the Wuhan coronavirus and China’s shameful reaction to it, we have what amounts to a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get out from under the mobster’s protection — will we take it?