The Chinese Coronavirus Is This Generation’s Tiananmen Test

Observers of the Chinese coronavirus crisis have cast it, with good reason, as a potential Chernobyl for General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party regime.

America, too, is faced with a challenge with relevant historical parallels, separate and apart from the wartime comparisons regarding the mobilization and sacrifices of our countrymen.

As with the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, we are once again at an inflection point in our relationship with China, faced with the carnage caused most directly by a malevolent CCP.

The Chinese coronavirus crisis may well represent this generation’s Tiananmen Square test.

The test is as follows: With the CCP inflicting incalculable costs in blood and treasure through its unique role in spreading the coronavirus, and its related menacing behavior, will we demand reparations, or will we let the regime off scot-free, emboldening it, and encouraging it to act with impunity and still more reckless abandon in its quest for hegemony going forward?

We failed this test in 1989.

Then, when presented with the image of “Tank Man,” we did something even worse than turning our back on him. Our immediate response to the CCP’s massacre of democracy protesters was toothless. But ultimately, we proceeded still further to embrace the Communist regime, effectively rewarding its villainy by integrating it into the global economic, financial, and geopolitical system.

What Makes China So Dangerous Now

Tiananmen represented nothing more than a minor speed bump in China’s race to become a world power. If anything, it may have served as an accelerant by showing the CCP it literally could get away with murder.

As a consequence of our failure to counter the CCP at many points on its rise to power, but most notably in 1989, the present Tiananmen test has been made all that much more difficult.

That is, China is significantly stronger, and more inextricably intertwined with America, by design. And this makes it more painful for us to punish it.

Today, China is the world’s second-largest economy, and its leading industrial power, making it a key cog in all manner of strategically significant supply chains.

Today, China exerts power and influence over global geopolitical institutions—including, as we have seen, the World Health Organization that America had disproportionately funded—to devastating effect.

Today, it is not just those on the streets of Beijing, but also the people of New York City and, indeed, across America who are dealing with the fatal consequences of coddling the Communist Chinese regime most culpable for the coronavirus pandemic.

This time we are the CCP’s victims.

Does anyone believe this pandemic would have proven so harmful were China not so deeply integrated into the global order?

Today, China not only possesses nuclear weapons but also asymmetric warfare capabilities to counter our conventional forces and a formidable intelligence apparatus.

Yet perhaps Beijing’s greatest strength is its bear hug with the West. Our collaborations have left far too many with a deep, vested interest in maintaining what is proving to be a toxic relationship.

We Are On Defense, China Is On Offense

For all the purported benefits of aiding, abetting, and enabling China’s rise, in terms of access to its large market, and cheaper goods, do we not now see the costs? Today our entire economy has been completely shut off due to the spread of a coronavirus pandemic that is a direct consequence of the CCP’s cover-up. For businesses that acceded to CCP tyranny for better margins, with those margins now completely crumbling, was it worth it?

By shutting down our economy, we have racked up still more debts—some of which may ultimately be held by China, giving it still more leverage on top of the $1trillion-plus in U.S. debt it already holds—accelerating our path towards national financial catastrophe.

Meanwhile, in hollowing out our industrial base, we put our greatest adversary in control of the most vital areas of production in exchange for cheaper goods. While freeing up resources for some, we’re seeing other parts of the country collapse—with all the concomitant negative knock-on effects for our national security, society, and economy. This may have been the most destructive creative destruction in United States history. Granted, China was not playing on an even playing field, and our tax and regulatory regime are part of what made China more attractive.

Speaking of security, as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreaks on the two sole U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific, we have been forced to cede the seas around China that it has always sought to command. This threatens America’s national interest and that of our allies and partners.

This is to say nothing of the precedent set in terms of government control in a crisis.

While we are on defense, China is on offense.

A Menace Laid Bare

China is seeking to convert this global disaster into a geopolitical victory by presenting itself as a model for dealing with pandemics and savior, again engaging in information operations intended to sow discord among its foes, and seeking to expand its soft power.

It almost taunted the rest of the world by reopening the wet markets from which many have speculated the virus originated.

For America, navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of apocalyptic health predictions on the one hand and economic depression on the other is a monumental task in and of itself.

But when we do overcome these immediate problems, the Tiananmen test will remain.

China is bigger, stronger, and richer than it was in 1989. Our ability to punish it without injuring ourselves has never been more difficult.

But when considering China’s responsibility for spreading this pandemic—on top of its recent repression in Hong Kong, operation of Xinjiang gulags, and threats against American servicemen and civilians alike—today as in 1989, the menace that is Communist China has been laid bare for all to see.

This is to say nothing of the biosecurity risk posed by China, as argued in a November 2019 Federal Bureau of Investigation report only recently disclosed publicly, detailing the discovery of vials labeled “Antibodies” on the person of a Chinese biologist arriving in the United States, that officials believe contained MERS and SARS materials.

We are suffering a catastrophe of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) making.

It must be held accountable, made to pay for the destruction it has caused, putting every lever of American power on the table to ensure it.

We must not fail this generation’s Tiananmen test.

About Ben Weingarten

Ben Weingarten is a Fellow of the Claremont Institute, Senior Contributor at ,i>The Federalist,/i>, and author of American Ingrate: Ilhan Omar and the Progressive-Islamist Takeover of the Democratic Party. He is a 2019 recipient of The Fund for American Studies' Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship, under the auspices of which he is currently working on a book U.S.-China policy and its bold transformation under the Trump administration. Ben's work has appeared in a number of publications including City Journal, the Claremont Review of Books, and TheBlaze/Conservative Review. He also serves as a frequent guest-host for the nationally syndicated "The Buck Sexton Show." Ben is the Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media, a conservative media consulting and production company.

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

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