21 april

China is expected to "pay back for the virus"

By Ivan Danilov (RIA “Novosti”)

In the era that ended with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia was in its own way a unique country which was constantly demanded to pay multi-billion-dollar reparations, compensations, and to express publicly repentance and to return territories and sprinkle ashes on its head. One could easily recall the appeals and even demands to pay and repent for the Second World War, for the “German victims” of the Red Army, for the "partition of Poland", for "Holodomor" famine in Ukraine, for the Crimea, for MH17, the Kuril Islands, for "the use of chemical weapons on British territory" (i.e. "Skripal case "), for the Yukos case, for global warming (because of the Russian oil and gas), for "Nord stream", for the Donbass, as well as for interference in the elections and referendums held in the USA, the UK, Montenegro, Madagascar and elsewhere in the world.

The coronavirus has changed the situation, but not entirely for the better. Just a club of countries from which the “advanced Western world” (and its satellites) demand trillions of dollars in compensation and reparations, suddenly expanded — and now Russia is in it alongside with China, which is already being claimed responsible for trillion-dollar economic damage, as well as human lives loss as a result of the coronavirus, which Donald Trump specifically and consistently calls "Chinese".

The essence of the charges is the (pseudo)reasoning, which can be schematically formulated as follows: "If China told Western countries on time that a new scary virus had been found, the countries of the civilized West would have prepared well and the epidemics would have not occurred. But China has hidden everything, censored truth-telling doctors, and now it has to answer for all the economic damage and lost lives of citizens of the Western world who died because of Beijing's actions."

The demand is obviously absurd, but one needs to be very naive (and poorly informed of the specifics of the thinking of our Western partners) to think that this absurdity (not to mention image considerations) will stop attempts to force China to pay and repent.

One of the British newspapers, The Daily Mail, in its recent Sunday edition has disclosed the goals and methods of fighting for Chinese money: "Britain should pursue the Chinese government through international courts for £351 billion pounds [$433 billion]. <…> 15 senior Tories demand a “rethink and reset” in relations with Beijing. <...> The first comprehensive investigation into the global economic impact of the [COVID-19] outbreak concludes that G7 group of the world’s leading economies have been hit by a £3.2 trillion [$3.95 trillion] bill that could have been avoided if the Chinese Communist Party had been open and honest about the outbreak late last year."

The authoritative study cited by the Mail on Sunday is an "investigation" by the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, which blames the actions of the Chinese government for the epidemic.

The project of the American Bloomberg Agency publishes a detailed study of the legal prospects of lawsuits against Beijing in international courts, made by a practicing lawyer specializing in such cases. He stiffly states that the process has already been initiated, and “In the US alone, two class action suits have been filed against China, for suppressing information about the virus in the early days [of its spread] and seeking billions [dollars] in compensation for the damage caused by the outbreak of the virus [epidemic]”.

If that continues, similar lawsuits will be filed not only in the US, but also in various European and international courts.

Keeping in mind how the current American presidential administration treats China and the "Chinese threat", we can assume that such actions will receive maximum political support, especially given that putting the blame for their own mistakes on an external enemy is a well-known political tactics that the Americans (and not only they) have successfully used against Russia (and not only it).

By the way, the Russian experience shows that the obvious legal insignificance of such charges will not affect the judicial prospects of such claims at all (we have already passed this lesson several times), not to mention the fact that the British government can successfully use its secret weapon against Beijing, which nullifies any defense tactics from the British point of view. It is a combat weapon called "highly likely", a magic wording that frees London from the need to provide any sane evidence of Russian guilt in the crimes that Moscow is accused of. There is no place for illusions: for China, the West has already found (or will very soon find) its own "Chinese Browder" and "Chinese Khodorkovsky", and even real victims of the epidemic, as well as Chinese doctors from Wuhan, who suffered from the mistakes of regional Chinese officials. And they will be quite cynically, "posthumously" used to shake trillions of cash dollars off the living Chinese.

However, the chances of actually getting these trillions from Beijing are too slim. But that is not the point. The point is to prevent ordinary residents of the European Union or the United States from discontent that the epidemic in the Western world has acquired a catastrophic scale with disastrous economic consequences. Despite all the media efforts, it is unlikely that ordinary Europeans and Americans will be convinced that the reason for all the problems is the alleged Chinese conspiracy. However, these same people have been watching reports in the Western media for several weeks about the measures the Chinese government is taking to combat the epidemic, including blocked residential complexes, food delivery by drones, mass testing, stopping businesses, and even roads, which were dug to stop communication between regions, guarded by police. All this was presented as evidence of "authoritarianism" and irrationality of the Beijing authorities. But now, pointing to these same reports, you can ask the plaintiffs about what other clear and shocking actions (not statements, but actions) had to be taken to make Boris Johnson and Donald Trump believe that the case is serious. Even as a PR campaign, all lawsuits against China will be quite useless, but as a reason for the introduction of anti-Chinese economic sanctions, they are perfect.

As the matter of fact, for these sanctions, everything is probably in the making.