The US should impose economic penalties against China due to China's failure regarding Covid-19
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This is a debate concerning the use of fiscal sanctions on China. Fauxlaw brought this up in the forums, so I figured it would be interesting to debate.
In mid-March, I launched a forum topic: “China owes the world a monetary penalty for allowing expansion of Covid-19.” It has generated enough interest that my opponent, and friend, Blamonkey, suggested it become a debate topic, and I agreed to have him set it up.
I have been thinking on the subject, and felt not a little bit of pride when, last week, a news commentator mentioned the possibility that such a penalty would be fitting. To me, it is a foregone conclusion, but I will make that subject my first point of argument; it remains to flesh-out just what would be an appropriate penalty. I will, to the last part of that argument, propose two penalties, and see where the arguments take us.
I further propose that each debater take three rounds to argue their points or rebuttal, or both, then the fourth round for rebuttals and conclusions, but no new argument.
I do not think any definitions are required up front, but Blamonkey may decide to entertain them, and I’ll likely agree to them.
Fair enough? Let’s debate!
I China’s poor record of handling infectious disease proliferation
I.a There should be penalty levied against China for their poor handling of the Covid-19 virus in allowing it to spread beyond their borders when the incident of patient 0, whose identity appears to be unknown, occurred deep into the Chinese interior.
Wuhan, ground zero of Covid-19, is due west some 840 km from Shanghai where the Yangtze River’s gaping mouth is the end of its long journey through the interior, and bisects Wuhan in its wandering course. It is 1,150 km miles south of Beijing. As such, Wuhan is geographically isolated by dense forestation sufficient to have been able to prevent such a rapid spread unless they were as sloppy handling Covid-19 as apparently evident with H5N1 [Bird Flu].
Their prior evidence of experience of allowing the spread of viruses to the world, it behooves China to have been more prepared to contain Covid-19. Nevertheless, China was caught behind the proverbial 8-ball by not even alerting WHO [World Health Organization] until the first week of January 2020.
I.b Considering just qurantineable and vaccine-preventable infectious diseases originating in China over the last 35 years [to 1975], China has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Chinese and international persons by just infectious diseases such as H5N1, and Covid-19.To date, China is experiencing more sympathy than expressing responsibility for these mostly needless deaths.
I.c Since these infectious diseases are originating in China, it behooves China to take responsibility for their weak response to protecting the rest f the world, at least, if they are going to be considered as a responsible neighbor in the world community.
II Not “Off with their heads!” dear red queen, but more than a slap on the wrist
II.a In the previously reference Forum post [see Introduction], I posted the following, “What's the value of a human life? I don't think that has a calculated number, and, there is more to the effect of Covid-19 than human life. It has caused health, economic, political, religious, and education consequences, and probably more.
The WTO [World Trade Org] names 140 nations in its membership, and all 140 are granted Most Favored Nation [NFN] status. China is currently listed. At the very least, China should be removed from WTO and MFN status. Now.”
However, given the source of the above [it was me], I now recognize that my source of the number of nations holding the WTO’s Most Favored Nation [MFN] status was old date. The number, as of this year, 2020, is 164,[84% of all nations] and China is still listed. Not that the number of MFN listings matters; China’s listing under the circumstances of the result of the Covid-19 pandemic is the nature of the debate.
II.b Listing means that it gives China, and all listed nations, access to the larger market, it lowers the cost of their exports since it lowers trade barriers, and their products become more competitive and offers businesses more opportunity for growth.
As the second-largest trading nation in the world by volume of trade, China certainly does not deserve to have its head removed, so to speak, that is, have all its trading privileges removed to become an isolated nation. But the notion that it can escape from consequence all together for its mismanagement of the Covid-19 outbreak while it was still contained within its borders in a geographically isolated region well within its borders is unthinkable. Punishment certainly ought to be levied; it’s supposed to be punitive and painful, but not fatal to the nation, and particularly its people. After all, the people are not as responsible as their government. That the government may not have been ultimately responsible [although that could be argued] they certainly are responsible for allowing the outbreak to grow beyond their borders, if not by direct action, then by ignorance of taking any action when prudent to do so. Let it be so.
III All have a right to be free; none have the right to take it from another
III.a I will claim the above as a personal quote, but its sentiment certainly is not. We have Immanual Kant [1724 – 1804] to thank for his philosophy of “Science of Right” , which, on the surface, is a treatment of a general concept that punishment of a crime should fit the nature of the crime. However, Kant’s philosophy in this regard is much deeper water than that shallow pond. He posits that a question such as ‘what is right?’ “…is… about as embarrassing to a jurist as the well known question, ‘what is truth?’ is to the logician.”
III.b Kant speaks to both legislation and jurisprudence: “...it is much more difficult to determine whether what they have enacted is right in itself, and to lay down a universal criterion by which right and wrong in general, and what is unjust, may be recognized.”
“Every action is right which in itself, or in he maxim on which it proceeds, is such that it can coexist along with the freedom of will of each and all in action, according to universal law.”
Well, there’s a right proper string of legal/philosophical gobbledygook. However, deconstructed, all Kant is saying is that my right of action ends at your nose; the fundamental principle of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. That Kant had access to a copy of that document, effected on a separate continent only two years before Kant's paper, is problematic, but just serves to also ratify the universality of the concept of Kant’s Science of Right.
III.c Applied to the situation presented by this debate, it means that to whatever degree the harm caused by Covid-19 cost in not only lives, which can have no real estimated monetary value, but in loss of revenue to each nation affected, not only is direct loss of trade revenue, but in cost to treat the cases incident of the pandemic, which does have an attributive monetary value, at least in an arguable scope.
III.d Apply that value, and impose a temporary banishment of China from the WTO, and its MFN status, until the debt is substantively paid. This will not restrict China’s right to international trade, but it will limit the profit to be had by China’s participation in trade.
I rest my case for the first round.
All have a right to be free; none have the right to take it from another
Rare Earth Magnets
The WTO is leading from behind [heard that somewhere before: the “leading from behind” bit
I.a A news release on 4/14 reported cables issued from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China warning the State Department in January 2018 that there were concerns regarding a lab in Wuhan, China investigating reports of unsafe conditions in the lab while studying theCovid-19 virus borne in bats. The report also indicates that US Embassy officials visited the lab, Wuhan Institute of Virology, a designated BSL-4 lab [bioresearch safety lab], several times up to March 27, 2018, sending cables of warning, and that WIV released news reports about the last visit. According to Gordon Chang, foreign affairs expert, "many Chinese believe the virus either was deliberately released or accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a P4-level bio-safety facility," long with the BSL-designation.
“The first cable, [sent by U.S. Embassy, Beijing] which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic,” said WaPo reporter, Josh Rogin.
“There are similar concerns about the nearby Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab, which operates at biosecurity level 2, a level significantly less secure than the level-4 standard claimed by the Wuhan Insititute of Virology lab, Xiao said. [the director of research at WIV]That’s important because the Chinese government still refuses to answer basic questions about the origin of the novel coronavirus while suppressing any attempts to examine whether either lab was involved,” the Wapo report added.
The vague report from the Chinese government that Covid-19 originated in a wet market blocks away from WIV via bats was later considered “shaky.” According to the WaPo 4/14 report, bats are not sold at this market; it is strictly a seafood market.
The above reports indicate that Chinese awareness of the potential danger of Covid-19 was known, and went unreported by them to WHO for at least two yearsbefore
they finally issued notice. I should rest my case on that announcement, alone, coupled with my round 2 argument citing the report from 4/13 that the Chinese government was shutting down further investigation into the origin of the virus; China bears full responsibility for the pandemic.
I.b By the way, there has been no evidence uncovered to suggest the merit of the Chinese government charge that the U.S. Military, allegedly conducting maneuvers in a Chinese forest, were responsible for the outbreak.
I.c Root cause analysis concludes that China failed to contain Covid-19 within a classified, BSL/P4 lab, a classification which is given because such a lab is not supposed to allow such release. And WHO failed to advise the world of the urgency of the outbreak, siding with China to withhold critically need health issues affecting the world. There can be no parsing of responsibility here of other contributors to this conspiracy of dark news.
II “China should be legally liable for the pandemic damage it has done”
II.a The opinion piece title above, released by the Washington Post on April 9, 2020, by columnist Marc Thiessen, states, “Somebody has to pay for this unprecedented damage. That somebody should be the government of China.” I argue that WHO must share in that penalty. The opinion goes on to say that while the government could not be blamed for the outbreak, that it was out of their direct control, and WHO’s oversight control, but I’ll digress from that opinion with the news of 4/14 from the same media outlet that China was well aware of the potential safety problems at the WIV lab in early 2018! It is apparent that those concerns related directly to issues of containment,and were expressed in that same time frame of 2018 by the lab director. The Chinese government was derelict in its duty to have the lab shore-up its deficiencies, and accomplish that long before the incident of outbreak, which has yet to be fully disclosed on a timeline that anybody will accept outside the Chinese government and WHO.
III Framework: more than a slap on the wrist; prevent the robbery of freedom
III.a The Chinese government could easily make reparation to the U.S. simply by forgiving the debt owed to them, at least up to the amount that is actually owed if the value of the debt by the U.S. is less than the total costs of U.S. reaction to the pandemic in the U.S. AS of January 2020 the total U.S. debt to China amounts to $1.08 trillion. There’s room to cover even the aid package to every adult and child in the U.S. , and to small businesses the President signed a week ago, and another, if need be. The same could be done to other MFN nations impacted by the virus which also carry debt to the PRC.
III.b This is a doable alternative to an embargo of Chinese trade to MFN nations, but if China balks at forgiving debt, it is one alternative that must be considered as equitable penalty.
III.c However, the foregoing does not address WHO’s complicity. The 4/14 announce by President Trump solves this aspect of applied penalty. WHO produces nothing but the acquisition and assessment of data, and its punishment should not be a drain on any nation such as caused by China’s culpability. As an information gatherer, examiner, and distributor, WHO’s funding interruption by Trump impacts WHO directly, and the people who are employed there. From that perspective, it is of little comfort that the employees, prevented from doing the right thing by the administration of WHO, who suffer, while it is the administration which is complicit with China in withholding that which employees knew and were prevented from releasing, just as the Chinese government withheld information their scientists knew was contrary to the truth. Since WHO is a wholly administered function of the U.N., the latter body should be compelled to issue sanctions against the existing WHO administration, sparing the organization’s scientists who were opposed to the administration’s tactics in stifling what that organization is mandated to do: freely distribute vital, critical information.
IV Rare earth, scorched earth
IV.a I acknowledge my opponent’s critique of the current status of the alternative magnetics of CeCo3 and CeCo5[the latter misidentified in my round 2]. However, I argue the American dominance in repeated examples of historic accelerated innovation in times of crisis, from the mastery of electricity by Edison and Tesla to the solution of a potentially lethal consequence on Apollo 13, solved by scientists and technicians separated by two day’s flight into the lunar landing mission from the spacecraft and its crew. Innovation in crisis. Americans have proved their innovative prowess in critical situations before; they will do so now.
IV.b Likewise, we cannot allow the complicity of China and WHO to impact American workers directly affected by Covid-19’s careless release. The funds expended as an emergency response by the Trump administration and Congress should also be exacted as consequence and recompense by China, reimbursed by U.S. debt forgiveness, as argued earler. If China balks, WTO comes to U.S.A’s defense, yet again.
In closing. My admiration to my friend and opponent for exemplary conduct during this debate. With one round to go, I am confident we can conclude in like manner. After all, this mess cannot be laid at our feet; of that I am confident, if of nothing else.
China’s failure to combat Covid-19: Bats in the Belfry in 2018
Even if China is solely to blame, the crux of this debate is economic penalties. I agree that to an extent, China has a role to play in the spread of the virus due to their neglect, (although, we shouldn’t be throwing stones given the baffling dearth of foresight exhibited by our institutions and leaders albeit not as extreme as China’s malfeasance,) but culpability does not justify sanctions. Sanctions need to produce tangible policy change to benefit the US. So far, Pro hasn’t established the solvency of his provisions.
Perhaps China was remiss in its duty, but why should WHO take a share of the blame? If they were given doctored data from China, they wouldn’t have many avenues to prove it. Irrespective of blame attribution, this point does not at all suggest that China will respond favorably to our sanctions at all. That’s problematic, because if we want China to improve pandemic reporting, then this could happen again.
If we sympathize with the employees of WHO, then further sanctions will only exacerbate job attrition from the WHO. How does one spare the scientists as Pro desired? I don’t know, and my opponent doesn’t clarify this.
Rare earth, scorched earth
Pro contends that US innovation can remedy the problem of rare earth metals. In the long run, he might be right, but:
As far as the WTO coming to our defense, the fact that we have actively undermined the GATT by imposing sanctions without going through the proper channels should make us think that in this instance, the WTO might not rule in favor of us. As I mentioned before, sanctions are regimented, temporary, and most importantly, a last resort. Practices that undermine free market competition are likely to be ruled in our favor, but under the GATT, I seriously doubt that there are measures that compel one country to forgive the debt of another. Under the auspices of international jurisprudence, even the US is not offered a shield of impunity.
On to voting issues.
1) US Dependence
Extend my unaddressed point about autocratic regimes being impervious to unilateral sanctions. China wont bow to US pressure as shown through my Tiananmen Square example and through numerous studies. China is also able to pivot away from the US toward less fussy trading partners, including members of BRICS and states that signed onto the BRI. With this in mind, there is almost no doubt that China can inoculate itself from the impact of sanctions sufficiently more than the US can.
3) WTO is Needed
Generally, the US wins cases against China through the WTO. Removing China from the WTO and stripping them of their MFN status means that they are no longer under the jurisdiction of WTO guidelines. Even if a nation can unilaterally strip the membership of a trade giant like China, doing so precludes an avenue to address the complaints of businesses who have had their IP stolen. The price of IP theft is in the hundred-billions, putting US companies at a disadvantage.
My framework, which focuses on US benefits from US sanctions, has not been soundly refuted. As I mentioned before, realpolitik supplants retributive justice when discussing foreign policy. As a state actor, even if we deem China of all the bad things in the world, we would still need to see returns on our policy.
Once again, I would like to thank my esteemed opponent and judges. Please vote Con.