Is the United States About to Engage in Official State Piracy Against China? Strong Precedent Points to Worrying Trend
Is the United States About to Engage in Official State Piracy Against China? Strong Precedent Points to Worrying Trend by A. B. Abrams for The Saker
The Coronavirus crisis appears set to herald a new era of much poorer relations between China and the Western world, with Western countries having borne the brunt of the fallout from the pandemic and, particularly in the United States, increasingly blaming China at an official level for the effects. Looking at the U.S. case in particular, at first responses to the virus were if anything optimistic – the fallout in China was seen as a ‘correction’ which would shift the balance of global economic power back into Western hands. Indeed, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated on January 30th that the fallout from the virus in China “will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America” with millions at the time placed under lockdown in Wuhan and elsewhere. Western publications from the New York Times to the Guardian widely hailed the virus as potentially bringing an end to China’s decades of rapid economic growth – with a ‘rebalancing’ of the global economy towards Western power strongly implied., Against North Korea, the New York Times described the virus as potentially functioning as America’s “most effective ally” in achieving the outcome Washington had long sought – “choking the North’s economy.” 
The result, however, has if anything been strong resilience to the virus across much of East Asia, with Vietnam and South Korea being prime examples of successful handling alongside Macao, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland – in contrast to a very sluggish and often ineffective response in the West. From rot filled and broken emergency supplies in the U.S. national reserve to nurses wearing bin bags due a lack of protective equipment,the commandeering of supplies heading to other countries,  and the enlistment of prison labour to build mass graves in New York City – signs have unanimously pointed to chaos. It should be pointed out that the U.S. reported its first case on the same day as South Korea – which had the virus fully under control several weeks earlier due to more effective handling and a lack of complacency. The U.S. and wider Western world had a major advantage in its warning time over China in particular, but effectively squandered it.
The results of the fallout from the Coronavirus in the Western world, and in the U.S. in particular, could be extremely serious given the context of escalating American pressure on China in the leadup to the outbreak. Blaming China for the virus across American press and in the White House itself – despite it having reached America primarily from Europe rather than Asia – has heralded mass hate crimes against the Asian American community of unprecedented seriousness and scale since the targeting of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s. Perhaps even more seriously, however, the official American response as public opinion is directed against China appears set to place the world’s two largest economies on a potentially catastrophic collision course. On April 14th U.S. Senator Josh Hawley unveiled highly provocative legislation which would strip China of its sovereign immunity in American courts and allow Americans to sue China’s ruling Communist Party directly for the damages caused by the coronavirus crisis. Such legislation relies heavily on growing anti-Chinese sentiments and depictions of China as directly responsible – and contradicts evidence from the World Health Organisation among others that China’s response effectively stalled the global spread of the virus at its own expense with its lockdown.
An unbiased analysts shows that the disproportionate fallout in the Western world relative to East Asia is overwhelmingly due to poor preparation – and had effective South Korean style measures been implemented from the outset America would have seen only a small fraction of the cases it currently suffers from. Nevertheless, calls from the U.S. and to a lesser extent from within other Western states to make China foot the bill are manifold. Scholars from the American Enterprise Institute and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution among others have made direct calls for Western states to unilaterally “seize the assets of Chinese state-owned companies,” cancel debts to China and expropriate Chinese overseas assets “in compensation for coronavirus losses.” The Florida based firm the Berman Law Group has already filed two major lawsuits suing China calling for compensation for the outbreak – and the situation looks set to worsen considerably with many more suits to follow. Regarding how the crisis could play out, and how the U.S. could act on its massive claims against China over the virus which are expected to be in the hundreds of billions at least, there is an important precedent for American courts providing similar compensation to alleged victims of an East Asian government and the American state taking action accordingly – that of the Otto Warmbier case in 2018. Assessment of the Warmbier case sets a very important precedent with very considerable implications for the outcome of a Sino-American dispute.