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Science | Geography | RE | Relationships and health

‘The reckoning’: China and the virus blame game

Does China deserve to be blamed for Covid-19? As Western nations are brought to their knees, recriminations are mounting. The Chinese government is under fire as never before. In a recent speech about the virus that is spreading across the world, President Donald Trump crossed out the word "Corona" and replaced it with the word "Chinese". Many saw this as a needlessly belligerentThreatening and aggressive.  and borderline racist thing to do. Since the start of the outbreak, East Asians have faced indefensible abuse. But critics of the abuse also say the Chinese government has a lot to answer for. Yesterday, for example, the Daily Mail's front page read: "No 10's fury at China's lies". Former Tory Party leader Ian Duncan Smith called on the UK to rethink its relationship with the world's most populous country. The virus is believed to have come from a bat, and spread to a human via a pangolin. Both of these animals were being sold at a live food or wet market in Wuhan, China. A 2019 article by Chinese academics had warned it was "highly likely that future [...] coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats". But no action was taken, and wet markets were allowed to stay open. The first cases of Covid-19 were reported back in December, but the first doctors to identify it were reprimanded by Chinese authorities for spreading rumours. One of them, Li Wenliang, then died of the disease. Chinese scientists had identified the virus genomeThe complete set of genes in an organism.  as early as 2 January, but did not share this vital information with the rest of the world for 10 days. Wuhan was finally placed under a lockdown on 23 January. During that delay, a massive Chinese Lunar New Year banquet took place and millions were allowed to leave the city. Even President Xi JinpingThe president of China, who has concentrated power and removed term limits allowing him to serve for life. was involved for weeks before any public announcements were made. In failing to act swiftly, critics argue that Chinese authorities allowed the catastrophic coronavirus to spread outside the country's borders. Over 30,000 people have now died and infections have reached almost every country in the world. But this also reflects how the disease is now a global - and not just a Chinese - problem. As many governments are discovering, it is very difficult to contain. Indeed, few other countries have been able to deal with the threat of Covid-19 as effectively as China. And now, Chinese officials and philanthropistsPeople who donate generously to good causes. are helping medics across the world to contain the pandemic. So, does China really deserve blame for Covid-19? Fault lines No. The virus knows no borders and knows no nationality. It does look like it started in China, but it was not deliberately unleashed. Though China could have perhaps done more, few other governments have fared better in their response to the outbreak. At a time when the world needs to come together to defeat a common enemy, blaming each other is an unhelpful distraction. Yes. In the early days of the outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party lied about how much it knew and focused on silencing doctors instead of warning the world. Though it clearly had the means to contain the virus, it did not do so quickly enough, putting millions around the world at risk. China has also failed to regulate its wild food markets, which are probably behind this virus. KeywordsBelligerent - Threatening and aggressive.

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