From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, China has been totally uncooperative. It has evaded accountability and responsibility for its actions. It has gone beyond just hiding the facts and conducted a massive disinformation campaign. This strategy has been successful. Pictured: China's President Xi Jinping. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
It seems that the European Union and the United States are now calling for a renewed investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. They are "urging" China to cooperate fully and provide "complete access." Them's fightin' words! The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must be quaking in its boots -- especially after President Joe Biden's national security advisor stated that the consequences of not cooperating would be international "isolation." This half-hearted approach will not get the job done. It's long past the time to get serious with China, and we all know it.
Why will this "powerful" unified initiative by the U.S. and its allies fail? From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, China has been totally uncooperative. It has evaded accountability and responsibility for its actions. It has gone beyond just hiding the facts and conducted a massive disinformation campaign. This strategy has been successful. Regardless of increasing doubts about the origin of the virus, there is no reason for China to change its cover-up strategy and reverse course. Why mess with success?
In fact, China has prepared for the day when it might come under more pressure and scrutiny. By April 2020, reports forwarded to me from European sources indicated that the Chinese intelligence apparatus had already successfully purged all traces of evidence of the Wuhan Institute of Virology's connection to a bio-weapons division operating at the facility. It had also eliminated any evidence about its connections to the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Information that the virus was a result of a lab leak had been eliminated.
Not only has China been deceitful, it has also been operating a massive global disinformation/influence operation. Beginning in roughly March 2020, sources indicated that the Chinese Communist Party had organized an operation of more than 2,000 people with at least $3 billion in financing to control the narrative. Key messaging included ensuring that the theory that the virus had developed naturally would prevail, and that the lab leak theory would be totally debunked. A second primary message was that China had effectively controlled the virus inside of China and was a leading player in minimizing the impact globally. Finally, it sought to portray the U.S. -- and especially President Donald Trump -- as bumbling and ineffectual in responding to the threat.
None of this should surprise us. The CCP has much to lose, both domestically and internationally, if the truth comes out. A muddled debate about the origins of the virus serves China just fine. Evading accountability -- and suffering no little negative fallout -- for unleashing a pandemic on the world that killed millions of people is not a bad outcome. And the economic results may even be better for China than for the rest of the world, thereby strengthening the CCP further.
And now, in response to China's obfuscation, the international community seems unable to go beyond the empty threat of calling for the World Health Organization (WHO) to follow up its original investigation, which was abysmal, with another probe. For the West to maintain the WHO as the agency of record is embarrassing. It was a puppet of China the first time around and will be again.
On June 20, President Biden's National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, indicated that if the CCP doesn't fully cooperate they'll see real consequences, like maybe they'll be isolated. Remember that China has been soundly condemned by the U.S. and others for practicing genocide against the Uyghurs. No consequences. China has been cheating ever since it was invited to join the World Trade Organization in 2001. No consequences. See a pattern? If you don't, you can bet that the Chinese do. They expect that spreading misinformation and hiding the facts about the pandemic will lead to the same fate, no consequences.
The international community is a paper tiger. It may not be long before we see a replay of Michelle Obama"s #bringbackourgirls as the most forceful international response to the behavior of the CCP. It didn't work. Count me as skeptic that the current policy will be any more effective.
Pete Hoekstra is a former Representative in Congress from Michigan. He served as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. More recently he was the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.