A national security analyst says the coronavirus that is threatening millions of lives across mainland China is also endangering the powerful Chinese Communist Party.
Known officially by the World Health Organization as COVID-19 for this specific outbreak, more than 74,500 cases have been officially reported in China, with 2,119 reported deaths. Those numbers are viewed suspiciously by many in a country that is punishing its own citizens, including doctors and nurses, for spreading “false” reports of overwhelmed hospitals and sealed-off cities.
Bob Maginnis, senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council, says China’s export-dependent government has been hurt financially by the epidemic.
"It's already losing financially significant export revenue,” he observes. “And obviously if you have to shut down entire provinces of a major country, and stop air transportation, and put people in quarantine, that inevitably has a major impact on your financial liability."
The coronavirus outbreak hit China when its economy was already weak, website Foreign Policy reported in early February, and shutting down whole cities affects factory production, tourism, and maritime trade, for example.
Social media remains a problem for the CCP, too, since harrowing first-hand accounts from Chinese citizens are being uploaded to websites such as Facebook and to Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
In a January story, NPR reported on a Wuhan mother stricken with the virus who pleaded in a Weibo post for someone to take her two children, ages 3 years and four months, from her home. The post was shared 26,000 times.
The New York Times reported on Li Wenliang, the Wuhan physician who warned fellow doctors last December about the pneumonia-like illness ravaging the city’s Central Hospital. His warning on social media about wearing protecting clothing was viewed by the CCP as “disrupting social order,” and he was forced to sign a letter for “making false comments.”
Dr. Li later contracted the virus from his patients and died Feb. 7, and the state-owned People’s Daily newspaper praised the doctor for “battling” the epidemic.
Asked about accusations the virus escaped from a "bio-safety" lab located in Wuhan, Maginnis says the Chinese do perform chemical and biological weapons research, and therefore it could have been stolen or accidentally released.
“I can't imagine you would release it on your own people,” he says. “It could have been this one got out of hand and contaminated a lot of people.”
Maginnis did not rule out China's claim that the virus originated with animals and was contracted at an open-air market in Wuhan.