Saturday, March 28, 2020

America's Superb, Unappreciated President - John Perazzo

by John Perazzo

A close look at what Trump has done to combat the current pandemic -- amid constant Democrat assaults.

It has been a very long time since Americans last saw such a clear distinction between the considerable leadership qualities of their president, and the shameless political maneuverings of an opposition party constantly lusting for power. Let us review exactly what has happened in this country over the past two months, vis-a-vis the coronavirus pandemic.

On January 29, President Donald Trump created a White House Coronavirus Task Force to coordinate the federal government's response to the virus outbreak and to keep the American people as informed about it as possible.

At that time, you might recall, congressional Democrats were giving precisely ZERO attention to the coronavirus threat. They had not held even a single hearing — for even a single moment — about the matter. Instead, they had spent the preceding four months entirely obsessed with one agenda item: impeaching President Trump and trying to remove him from office. The Senate impeachment trial, which had commenced on January 21, was still in high gear. Since the previous September, the faces of Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff, and a host of other Democrats had become fixtures on every television screen in America as they salivated over the smell of political blood. They talked about nothing but impeachment, as their normal legislative duties were all but forgotten. Coronavirus was, quite literally, the last thing on any of their minds.

Two days later, on January 31, President Trump formally declared coronavirus to be a public health emergency and he implemented a ban on travel from China to the United States. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci later noted that “the very timely decision on the part of the president to shut off travel from China” had “absolutely” gone “a long way” toward limiting the number of coronavirus infections in the U.S.  “We did it early,” said Fauci, “and as it turned out, there were relatively few cases, in the big picture of things, that came in from China. Unfortunately … in European countries they didn't do that [ban travel from China], and they got hit really hard.... When the infection burden shifted from China to Europe, we did the same thing. We shut off travel from Europe, which again was another safeguard to prevent influx from without, in.” Also by Fauci's telling, the Trump administration's “coordinated response” to the crisis — dating back to “the beginning [when] we [first] recognized what this [virus] was” — had been undeniably “impressive.” “I can't imagine that, under any circumstances, anybody could be doing more,” said Fauci.

But Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden failed to recognize any value in Trump's actions. Instead, he saw a golden opportunity to inject his campaign with a bit of life by doing what he does best: branding a political opponent as an out-of-control bigot. On February 1 — just one day after Trump had announced his China travel restriction — Biden depicted the president as a racist whose heart was filled with hatred for Asian people. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia — and fearmongering,” said the former vice president.

Notably, it would not be until four days later — on February 5 — that the Democrats' failed impeachment trial in the Senate would finally draw to a close. That was the same day that the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held its very first coronavirus hearing.

In subsequent weeks, President Trump announced further travel restrictions on certain global hot spots where coronavirus was becoming increasingly widespread — namely Iran, South Korea, and eventually, all of Europe. American citizens returning from travel-restricted countries began to be routed to specific airports, where they could be properly screened and, if necessary, isolated. Eventually, in March, the president officially closed both the southern and northern borders of the United States, so as to prevent the unnecessary influx of any further coronavirus cases from Mexico or Canada.

But at that very same moment in time, a host of Democrats and their supporters suddenly became quite enamored of a talking point that had recently been floated by Communist China's foreign ministry: the notion that it was somehow “racist” for anyone to make reference to coronavirus as a phenomenon of Chinese origin. Joe Biden, true to form, latched on to the Beijing propaganda and suggested that Trump's decision to describe the pathogen as “a foreign virus” or “a Chinese virus” was evidence of the president's … yes, you guessed it, racism and xenophobia. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton jumped aboard the bandwagon as well: “The president is turning to racist rhetoric to distract from his failures to take the coronavirus seriously early on, make tests widely available, and adequately prepare the country for a period of crisis.”

In conjunction with the Trump administration's around-the-clock efforts to accelerate the development of coronavirus diagnostic capabilities, treatments, and vaccines, on February 29 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency approval for the development of new commercial coronavirus tests. To enable this goal to be realized as quickly as possible, President Trump instructed the agency to dramatically cut the bureaucratic red tape that traditionally had stood in the way of swift action. Meanwhile, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) provided large sums of money to help accelerate the production of diagnostic tests. Trump also issued emergency orders that allowed HHS “to immediately waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give [all] healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.” And on March 16, the National Institutes of Health announced the start of a clinical trial aimed at creating a coronavirus vaccine — representing one of the fastest vaccine-development launches in the history of medicine.

But alas, Joe Biden was unimpressed. “The Obama-Biden Administration set up the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense,” he boasted, “to prepare for future pandemics like COVID-19” — the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Donald Trump eliminated it [the Directorate], and now we're paying the price.” Trump's “draconian cuts,” said Biden, were now costing people their lives.

Not surprisingly, Biden's very serious charge caught the media's attention on a grand scale. Too bad it was an unadulterated lie. Former National Security Council (NSC) official Tim Morrison, who was the senior director for counter-proliferation and bio-defense at the NSC when Trump's “draconian cuts” had supposedly occurred, explains that the office in question was simply combined with others in a reorganization that “left the bio-defense staff unaffected.” “What actually happened,” says the American Spectator, “was that the president streamlined the bloated NSC, reorganizing some sections to accomplish that goal. In that process, three departments with roughly the same mission were consolidated.” Morrison painstakingly laid out these facts in an op-ed published by the Washington Post, where he not only praised the president for his efforts to “finally create real accountability in the federal government’s expansive bio-defense system,” but also derided critics for having “misconstrued or intentionally misrepresented” the facts regarding Trump's action.

On March 4, HHS announced that it was going to purchase 500 million N95 respirators for the Strategic National Stockpile. A week later, President Trump signed a memorandum directing his administration to make general-use face masks available to healthcare workers. And six days after that, on March 17, the Department of Defense, in response to a request by the president, announced that it would be providing 5 million additional respirator masks as well as 2,000 specialized ventilators.

But Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg lamented that many Americans would tragically have to “pay a heavy cost” for “the president’s management incompetence.” Former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine likewise derided Trump for his “massive missteps that have led to the United States being so far behind other nations in the world” in responding to the crisis.  

On March 5, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) created new billing codes for coronavirus tests, so as to facilitate accurate tracking of the public health response. The following day, President Trump signed legislation securing $8.3 billion for coronavirus response efforts — money that would cover the costs of things like public lab testing, isolation and quarantine initiatives, the sanitization of public areas, and vaccine research. And a week after that, Trump officially declared a national emergency, which freed up an additional $42 billion to fund the cause.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer decided that the best way they could now help the American people rally their energies to fight the pandemic, would be to release a joint statement declaring that “President Trump continues to manufacture needless chaos within his administration, and it is hampering the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.”

In an effort to be responsive to the needs of American businesses and their employees, President Trump met with executives from the banking, health insurance, pharmaceutical, airline, grocery store, and retail store industries, among others. On March 10, he urged Congress to pass a payroll tax cut. That same day, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) — in fulfillment of “a top priority for President Trump and this Administration” — announced new flexibilities that would allow meal-service programs to remain active even while schools were closed due to coronavirus. And CMS, after meeting with President Trump and Vice President Pence, announced that Medicare Advantage and Part D plans could now waive co-payments for coronavirus tests and treatment.

But according to recent Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, “Trump’s incompetence” in dealing with the pandemic was akin to “a neon sign going like, ‘I stink at my job. Yeah, I am a dummy! Ok?’ by Donald Trump.”

On March 11, The Trump administration announced that health savings accounts could be used to cover coronavirus testing and treatment without co-payments. That same day, the president directed the Treasury Department to allow coronavirus-impacted individuals and businesses to defer the payment of taxes that they owed.

But in the words of former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat: “We got a guy in the White House who doesn’t know anything about patriotism, doesn’t know anything about empathy.”

On March 12, Trump instructed the Small Business Administration to make available some $50 billion in low-interest disaster loans for businesses impacted by the virus.

That was the same day that Joe Biden parroted an already-debunked Democratic talking point when he said: “By cutting our investment in global health, this administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face.” Biden was referring to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), to which the United States had contributed $600 million in 2015. The Washington Free Beacon explains: “As the initial funding dwindled in early 2018, reports emerged suggesting the Trump administration would scale back GHSA operations in all but 10 countries. But the cuts never happened, and the Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget includes an increase in the GHSA’s annual appropriation.”


Did Mr. Biden ever apologize for his premeditated, malicious lie? Don't be ridiculous. For Biden's purposes, his lie about Trump and the GHSA achieved its objective with flying colors: Many Americans who heard him articulate the falsehood will undoubtedly never find out that not a single syllable of it was true. They'll just remember the urgent-sounding tenor in Biden's voice. What more could a lifelong congenital liar ask for?

On March 12 as well, the Trump administration increased the flexibility of unemployment insurance programs, so as to allow workers impacted by the coronavirus to benefit from them.

At that point, Hillary Clinton decided that she could raise the bar of statesmanship to new heights by tweeting sarcastically: “I know this is all hard for you, @realdonaldtrump, so let me spell it out.” She then proceeded to list a series of anti-coronavirus measures that, contrary to her false implication, President Trump had already enacted. Finally, Mrs. Clinton informed Trump that he might do a better job of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic if he were to try, for a change, “giving a damn” about the American people. That same day, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell pronounced in the gravest of tones: “More people are sick in America tonight because Donald Trump is president. More people are dead and dying in America tonight because Donald Trump is president.”  

On March 13, President Trump authorized HHS to waive its existing rules and regulations so that healthcare providers could respond to the crisis with as few restrictions as possible. That same day, he directed the Energy Department to purchase — at a very favorable price — large quantities of crude oil for the National Strategic Reserve. Trump likewise directed the Education Department to waive interest payments on student loans held by the federal government. On March 14, the administration negotiated legislation to provide tax credits for businesses that chose to give paid leave to employees affected by the virus. And four days later, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it would temporarily suspend foreclosures and evictions affecting families whose mortgages were insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

But according to Michael Bloomberg, President Trump had thoroughly “failed to prepare for a deadly pandemic — leaving Americans deeply unsettled” as a result.

The Trump administration has provided every state in the Union with increased flexibility to approve the establishment of coronavirus testing laboratories as well as drive-through testing sites. On March 14, it was announced that the administration was working with Google to develop a website designed to help Americans learn learn coronavirus prevention procedures, determine whether or not they needed a test, and, if so, where they could get one. Four days later, the administration launched a partnership with the Ad Council, various media networks, and a number of digital platforms to produce public service announcements about the coronavirus. In March as well, CMS dramatically expanded access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, thereby enabling more patients to consult with their doctors remotely while avoiding potential exposure to the virus.

But Joe Biden, in tones that were at once somber and outraged, lamented on March 15 that the World Health Organization had “offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now,” but Trump “refused them.” Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, this latest claim was no truer than any of his other malicious lies. Kaiser Health News quotes World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Margaret Harris as follows: “No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC [Centers for Disease Control & Prevention] about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States.” 

On March 18, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. Navy would soon be deploying two medical ships to help support areas impacted by coronavirus. On March 19, the president signed into law a bill to not only ensure paid leave benefits to many Americans, but also to make free coronavirus testing available to anyone in need, including the uninsured. Moreover, that same bill supported nutrition programs such as the food stamp system.

But during a speech on the Senate floor that very same day, Senator Tim Kaine chastised the president for engaging in “inflammatory China-bashing” and “weeks and weeks of tweeting lies and misinformation about the virus, while the leaders of other nations were taking steps to make sure their populations could be safe.” Former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took time to weigh in as well, condemning Trump's “failure as a leader” and depicting the president's supporters as nothing more than “cult members” who “mindlessly follow a stern dictatorial father-figure who tells them what to do and think. Like, well, Nazis.”


On March 21, the FDA announced that it had approved a rapid coronavirus test that would require no training to administer and would yield results in less than an hour. On March 22, Trump asked multiple car companies to mass produce ventilators to help combat the pandemic.

On that very same day, however, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — another Democrat who had recently sought his party's presidential nomination — accused President Trump of refusing to “lift a finger to help his hometown” (New York) deal with with the coronavirus outbreak. “I can’t be blunt enough,” said de Blasio. “If the president doesn’t act, people will die who could have lived otherwise.”


In a March 22 interview, Fox News host Mark Levin said to Dr. Anthony Fauci: “There is this statement put up, [by] some in the press, [by] some in the opposition party of the president, that the president doesn't follow the science. Is the president following the science?” After replying that in the daily Coronavirus Task Force meetings “we make all of our decisions and recommendations that are based on the science,” Fauci said:

“I have never in that room had a situation where I said, scientifically, this is the right thing to do and they said, don't do it. Or [I have never said] scientifically, this is the wrong thing to do, and they did it anyway. Then we get up and we present it to the president. And he asks a lot of questions. That's his nature. He is constantly asking the question, and I never, in the multiple times that I've done that ... He has never overruled me.”

And yet, on that very same day, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait published an article titled “Trump Is Back to Waging War on Science, at the Worst Possible Moment.” The piece concludes with this stinging indictment of the president: “Public-health professionals have had nothing to offer him but facts and science. They never had a chance.”

The coordinated campaign of premeditated lies and smears that the Democrats and their media mouthpieces have been waging against President Trump ever since the word “coronavirus” first entered the American people's consciousness, has been obscene. But there is something else that also needs to be addressed. Have you noticed that even now — after the life-and-death dangers inherent in the Democrats' open-borders, catch-and-release immigration policies have been thoroughly laid bare by the current crisis — Democrats in public office have been utterly silent about those dangers? Have you noticed that they have not ventured even to speculate that perhaps President Trump's pre-coronavirus warnings about the need to regulate our nation's borders were well-founded and had absolutely nothing to do with racism?

This is because the Democrat narrative never changes in any significant way. It merely makes minor adjustments for the sake of political expediency. So because right now it would be politically inconvenient to link racism to the type of border security that is very obviously a matter of life-and-death for many Americans, the Democrats have simply found a new way of framing their tried-and-true “racism” charade. Thus have we heard one Democrat after another intone their latest mantra-of-the-moment: the notion that Trump's use of the term “China virus” is damnable proof of his “racism.”

The Democratic Party has devolved into something quite diabolical. Its very considerable energies are now spent on little more than a constant stream of frenzied efforts to cover their political foes in rhetorical bird droppings. Aside from that, the party has nothing to offer the American people.

* * *
Photo by Gage Skidmore

John Perazzo


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Britain Needs to Rethink Its Huawei Decision after China's Conduct over Coronavirus - Con Coughlin

by Con Coughlin

China's cynical attempts to use the coronavirus pandemic to its own advantage are not just deeply unethical: they should be taken as a warning that Beijing is not to be trusted

  • "China is trying to turn its health crisis into a geopolitical opportunity. It is launching a soft power campaign aimed at filling the vacuum left by the United States." — Yu Jie, a senior research fellow at London's Chatham House
  • China's cynical attempts to use the coronavirus pandemic to its own advantage are not just deeply unethical: they should be taken as a warning that Beijing is not to be trusted, a lesson the West should take on board as it contemplates its future relationship with the Chinese, on trade and other issues such a 5G.
  • In Britain, for example, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision earlier this year to allow Huawei access to the country's new 5G network was taken despite the fact that the country's security services have long-regarded Huawei as a "high-risk vendor".
  • Mr Johnson's decision in favour of Huawei continuing its involvement in constructing the 5G network is said to have been influenced by threats from Beijing that Britain's vital trading relationship with China would be adversely affected if Huawei was excluded.

China's cynical attempts to use the coronavirus pandemic to its own advantage should be taken as a warning that Beijing is not to be trusted, a lesson the West should take on board as it contemplates its future relationship with the Chinese, on trade and other issues such a 5G. (Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

China's shameful attempt to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to further its own global ambitions should be seen as yet further evidence of the mounting threat Beijing poses to the West.

The blatant hypocrisy of China's attempts to use the pandemic for its own ends should persuade countries such as Britain to undertake a fundamental reappraisal of their relationship with Beijing, especially when it comes to sensitive technological issues, such as allowing the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei access to the 5G network.

Far from being embarrassed that the rank incompetence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in dealing with the initial outbreak has resulted in the world suffering its worst public health crisis in a century, Beijing has instead embarked on a charm offensive aimed at providing support for affected countries.

A good example of how China is seeking to reposition itself as the world's "Coronavirus Saviour", as opposed to being the instigator of a pandemic that has so far claimed around 20,000 lives, can be seen in the response of the Balkan state of Serbia to the generous medical support it has received from Beijing.

Serbia, in common with many European countries, was caught off-guard by the rapid spread of the virus, and soon found that it was suffering severe shortages of vital medical supplies.

This led the country's president, Alexander Vucic, to make a personal appeal to Chinese President Xi Jinping for help. Referring to Mr Xi as my "brother and friend", Mr Vucic publicly thanked the Chinese leader after Beijing sent a team of doctors to Belgrade, together with face masks, ventilators and other vital equipment.

"I believe in my brother and friend Xi Jinping and I believe in China's help," said Mr Vucic, before ending his statement with a swipe at the European Union, which had failed to respond to Serbia's request for assistance. "European solidarity," he said, was just a fairy tale.

The gratitude expressed by countries such as Serbia for the assistance provided by China will be music to Beijing's ears as it seeks to distance itself from its culpability in causing the pandemic in the first place. As Yu Jie, a senior research fellow at London's prestigious Chatham House think tank, commented earlier this week, "China is trying to turn its health crisis into a geopolitical opportunity. It is launching a soft power campaign aimed at filling the vacuum left by the United States."

China's cynical attempts to use the coronavirus pandemic to its own advantage are not just deeply unethical: they should be taken as a warning that Beijing is not to be trusted, a lesson the West should take on board as it contemplates its future relationship with the Chinese, on trade and other issues such a 5G.

In Britain, for example, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision earlier this year to allow Huawei access to the country's new 5G network was taken despite the fact that the country's security services have long-regarded Huawei as a "high-risk vendor".

Mr Johnson's decision in favour of Huawei continuing its involvement in constructing the 5G network is said to have been influenced by threats from Beijing that Britain's vital trading relationship with China would be adversely affected if Huawei was excluded.

Mr Johnson's decision provoked outrage in Washington, prompting a cross-party group of 20 US senators to travel to London and call on the UK to reverse its decision, highlighting the "significant security, privacy, and economic threats" of the plan.

Apart from jeopardising Britain's future membership of the elite "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing arrangement with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Washington believes the British government is being naive if it believes it can allow Beijing access to its 5G network without compromising its own national security, as well as other members of the Five Eyes alliance.

Mr Johnson certainly has a good excuse for reversing the Huawei decision now that Beijing has shown its true colours through its all-too-revealing exploitation of the coronavirus pandemic.

Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.


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US Chamber of Commerce wants to keep America dependent on China - Peter Skurkiss

by Peter Skurkiss

Protecting investments.

In this time, when the Wuhan virus is ravishing the U.S., it is beyond nauseating to read that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants America to stay dependent on China for pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and other manufacturing goods. 

That might seem hard to believe, but it appears to be the case. Tom Donohue, the 82-year-old, well coiffed, and highly compensated president of the CoC, is objecting to the Trump administration's "Buy American" mandates for medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. This, the silver-tongued Donohue says, will "damage U.S. trading relationships for years to come." 

It doesn't seem to disturb Mr. Donohue that the trade relationships and practices he wishes to protect and preserve with China are exactly the ones that have hollowed out the American middle class. They have also left the U.S. dependent on that communist country for over 90 percent of our prescription drugs and much of our medical equipment and supplies, a truly surreal situation

The CoC and the other trade groups associated with it gussied up their plea to stop the "Buy America" mandates as being in the American interest. This is the same approach they used when they essentially wrote the disastrous trade deals of the 24-year Clinton-Bush-Obama era. It's all for the American good, they argued. But that line is specious. The fact is that the CoC does not represent America. It's the front group for the big international corporations and Wall Street. While the middle class stagnated, these interests grew rich in deliberately de-industrializing the U.S. Now they want to protect their investments in China. It's really as simple as that. 

In this time of crisis, how could Donohue have such a tin ear? How can he be so oblivious to what is happening here and throughout the world? Does he not know the old rules of "doing business" have radically changed? Donald Trump is president, and he has some hard as nails trade negotiators like Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross at Commerce who are not going to blink.

The CoC and its ilk have gotten away with what they have in the past because they basically flew below the public's radar. Then there was little risk to influence-peddling on the Hill. That was considered business as usual in Washington. Not anymore. When people's lives are directly affected as they are now with this Chinese virus, they pay strict attention. Taking money to support China, even if it is washed through a number of intermediates, will find few political takers. 

My advice to Mr. Donohue is to tell his big corporation clients to start selling off their investments in China for what they can get and plan on coming home. If not, someone else will make what their Chinese factories do. Now, that's in America's national interest.

Peter Skurkiss


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Coronavirus Delivers Another Devastating Blow to the Iranian Regime - Yaakov Lappin

by Yaakov Lappin

The virus is the latest in a succession of blows to the Iranian regime’s domestic status, fractured economy, and already low credibility level at home.

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,507, March 27, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The coronavirus pandemic has hit Iran hard, and not only on the health front. The virus is the latest in a succession of blows to the Iranian regime’s domestic status, fractured economy, and already low credibility level at home. The virus also appears to be slowing down the regime’s malign activities across the Middle East.

The Iranian regime has, in recent months, taken one uppercut after another. The setbacks include a deteriorating economic crisis fueled by US sanctions—a crisis with no clear resolution; the US drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani; the fiasco of the downing of the Ukrainian aircraft that followed soon after; and growing anti-regime demonstrations driven by an Iranian public demanding a better quality of life.

An ongoing oil war, which has seen prices decrease sharply, has also struck a damaging blow to Iran, which still relies in part on oil exports to generate income. And the coronavirus pandemic is unlikely to help quell Iran’s domestic instability.

Even before the virus hit, leaving an estimated 2,000 Iranians dead and 25,000 infected according to official figures at the time of this writing, the regime had hit its lowest point since the 1979 revolution.

Iran’s consumer price index and the cost of basic commodities indicate runaway inflation. Protesters demanding a better economic life had, until the pandemic struck, been out in the streets on a regular basis since November, and the fact that the protests reappeared within days of Soleimani’s mass funeral procession indicates that public anger is deeply entrenched.

In its attempt to suppress the unrest, the regime’s security forces have killed more than 300 of their own people, wounded 3,500, and imprisoned more than 700. Internet access is routinely cut off. These developments signal massive public disappointment in the Islamic Republic’s leadership and a domestic challenge that is shaking the Iranian leadership to its core.

The fact that Iran had to cut fuel subsidies last year, sparking the initial wave of protests, reflects an understanding by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign of sanctions isn’t going anywhere.

At first, Iran responded by stepping up both its malign regional activity and its nuclear program activities. Now, while the nuclear program continues to make alarming progress, Iran’s subversive and terrorist activities in the region are decreasing due to the domestic strain.

Earlier this month, an IDF spokesperson said the Israeli military was seeing a reduction in the level of activity by Iran and other adversaries against Israel. With more than 30% of Iranians living below the poverty line and struggling for basic goods even before the coronavirus lockdown, Iran may be unable to fund and organize large-scale regional entrenchment and terrorism as aggressively as it could before.

Large scale domestic unrest—the scenario that most frightens the leadership—is unlikely to happen immediately, as the population is practicing social distancing and staying at home. But the shock wave created by the coronavirus and the regime’s mishandling of the crisis will be felt acutely after the pandemic passes, and will hold the potential to contribute to the regime’s destabilization.

In recent days, the Iranian military has cleared the streets of citizens to enforce isolation.
Recent statements by Khamenei in which he peddles baseless anti-American conspiracy theories about the virus’s origins indicate how disconnected the Iranian leadership is from the extreme predicament of its people. Khamenei has rejected an American offer of a medical assistance program.

Khamenei’s worldview and radical Shiite Islamist ideology appear to be wearing thin among many Iranians, whose main goal these days is economic survival and achieving a reasonable standard of living. Responding to Khamenei’s statements, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted Monday that the regime allowed many flights from China to land in Iran during the virus outbreak, ignored “repeated warnings from its own health officials, and denied its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days.”

“It is important to note that since 2012, Iran has spent over $16 billion on terror abroad, and used sanctions relief from the JCPOA to fill up its proxies’ coffers. Regime officials stole over a billion Euros intended for medical supplies, and continue to hoard desperately needed masks, gloves, and other medical equipment for sale on the black market,” Pompeo said.

Not long ago, Iran was sending around $1 billion a year to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terror organizations while spending tens of billions of dollars on its military and terror activities in Syria. Current Iranian overseas military and terror financing figures are not immediately available, but it is difficult to imagine how Tehran can keep up this level of funding for its foreign destabilization projects.

The Iranian regime recently took the unprecedented step of asking the IMF for a $5 billion loan, revealing the extent of its economic crisis. Iran’s request for help from an international financial institution marks a complete break with past policy and reflects the urgency its decision-makers feel regarding the country’s economic problems.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is estimated to control between 20% and 40% of the Iranian economy, a factor that likely further drives resentment among sections of the public.

As James M. Dorsey, a non-resident senior associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, recently noted, “Iran has become the poster child of what happens when the public distrusts a government that has a track record of being untransparent from the outset of a crisis, limits freedom of expression that often creates early warning systems that could have enabled authorities to take timely, preemptive measures to avert or limit the damage, and is perceived as corrupt.”

In the long term, it remains unclear whether these dire conditions will force the regime to cut back on its long-term terrorist sponsorship and armament program for its network of radical proxies, but if it fails to do this, that failure might accelerate unrest at home.

In the meantime, a mysterious airstrike on Sunday targeted Iran’s Albukamal military base on the Syrian-Iraqi border, a site reportedly used by the Quds Force to traffic weapons and personnel from Iraq into Syria. Pro-Iranian militias have been active in recent weeks in Iraq, launching a deadly rocket attack on a US base, absorbing American air strikes, and still continuing attacks afterwards.

While these incidents reflect an Iranian determination to continue to use its proxies against the US and its allies in the region, they do not conceal the extreme position in which Tehran finds itself—a position that may yet worsen once the coronavirus crisis passes.

This is an edited version of an article published by Algemeiner on March 25, 2020.

Yaakov Lappin is a Research Associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks and is the military correspondent for JNS. His book The Virtual Caliphate explores the online jihadist presence.


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Coronavirus Craziness From Turkey - Hugh Fitzgerald

by Hugh Fitzgerald

Conspiracy theories and inshallah-fatalism brought to you by the Religion of Peace.

Many examples of conspiracy theories, inshallah-fatalism, and sheer craziness have been on display in the Muslim Middle East, as it tries to make sense of the coronavirus. A recent roundup of voices from Turkey at offers views often contradicting one another.

Here is Memri’s summary of what the Turkish press and public have been saying:
Members of the Turkish press and public have reacted to the global spread of COVID-19, colloquially known as the Coronavirus, blaming it on Jews and other unspecified political actors and saying that the virus cannot be transmitted in mosques. On March 13, Turkish medical doctor Dr. Yavuz Dizdar claimed that 60% of the population of Turkey was already infected with the virus and that the Ministry of Health, in order to hide this fact, was not providing test kits.
If the Ministry of Health is not providing test kits, on what basis does Dr. Dizdar insist that 60% of the Turkish population is already infected? Is his dim view of the Ministry of Health warranted? Could it be that the Ministry does not have enough test kits due to the sudden explosion of the coronavirus, as has happened in many countries, and is merely incompetent, not malevolent, in failing to have enough of them? What Dr. Dizdar’s claim does show is a deep suspicion of the authorities, the belief that they would not hesitate to hide facts about spread of the virus if they felt it in their own interest to do so, by appearing to be more competent than in fact they have been.
“This Virus Serves Zionism’s Goals Of Decreasing The Number Of People”; “Anyway The Jews Are A Cursed Race”
Fatih Erbakan, who is the head of Refah Party and the son of late Turkish Islamist politician and former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, who is generally thought to have been President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political mentor, said of the virus in a speech reported on March 6: “Though we do not have certain evidence, this virus serves Zionism’s goals of decreasing the number of people and preventing it from increasing, and important research expresses this. [Necmettin] Erbakan said: ‘Zionism is a five-thousand-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people.'”
Fatih [“The Conqueror”] Erbakan says that “though we do not have certain evidence” – meaning, “we have no evidence at all” – nonetheless he can state with confidence that the coronavirus serves “Zionism’s goal’s of decreasing the number of people.” But why would the Zionists be served if the world’s population were to decrease? Why is that good for them? No hint of an explanation from Erbakan. No hint that an explanation is even needed. Do Jews possess a special antibody that renders them impervious to the coronavirus? Obviously not, because hundreds of Israelis have been stricken, and the number of cases in that country increases ever more steeply, though Israel is in lockdown.

As for his father’s comment, that he deemed worthy of repeating, that “Zionism is a five-thousand-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people,” Fatih Erbakan needs to be reminded that Zionism, as a movement, began in the 1890s, not 5000 years ago. But in the crazed world of the anti-Zionists, who’s counting?
A video recently appeared on social media showing a Turkish bus driver saying that all the epidemics in recent history, from AIDS to Ebola, had been created by pharmaceutical companies. The bus driver then asked: “And to whom do most of the pharmaceutical companies belong? To the Jews.” A passenger said: “[The Jews] will do anything to end the lineage of the Turks.” Another said: “Not only Turks, sister, they will do anything to bring the world to its knees.” The bus driver then said: “Anyway the Jews are a cursed race.”
One malevolent and idiotic claim after another is presented. First the bus driver, who insists on the basis of no evidence whatsoever that pharmaceutical companies have created AIDS, Ebola, SARS, the coronavirus, in order to profit by selling vaccines. None of the main pharmaceutical companies in America and Europe — all of them publicly owned and traded, with tens of thousands of owners – belong, as he claims, “to the Jews.” To add another dose of idiocy, a passenger insists that “the Jews will do anything to end the lineage of the Turks.” How would they do that? The coronavirus has been especially virulent in China, Italy, and Iran, not in Turkey. Right now there are more cases of coronavirus in Israel than in Turkey. Besides, why would “the Jews…do anything to end the lineage of the Turks”? Why should they have it in for the Turks? For many decades, Turkey and Israel were allies; it was only after the arrival of Erdogan that that relationship turned sour. Israel and Turkey have not been hereditary enemies. Isn’t Iran a much more dangerous threat to Israel today than Turkey? Still another passenger chimes in with the news that the Jews “will do anything to bring the world to its knees.” How? Why? To obtain what? Crazed claims are made, one after the other, each more bizarre than the next, and instead of evidence we get a series of baseless assertions.
A Virus Cannot Spread In Allah’s House – Also, The Quran Has Healing Verses, We Recite Them Continually”
On March 10, Abdurrahman Dilipak, a columnist for daily Yeni Akit, wrote: “Look how some people today have rolled up their sleeves to bring the Nazi dream to life. This is a fascist plan. Once they have finished their work with the gays and lesbians, of whom they appear to take ownership, their plan for their ‘removal’ is ready on the table, and this is an ordinary and easy task for them. It’s as if for them a woman is just a bionic robot doing its incubation duty on a human farm. But of course, they think that the population of the world must first be greatly decreased. The most cowardly example of this is the subversion and sterilization of the family! This is what they want to do. Maybe tomorrow they will present the vaccine for Corona as a medicine, and they will add something sterilizing to it. And you know how the virus can spread on money, so that’s good for Bitcoin.”
Who are “some people” who are determined to “bring the Nazi dream to life”? Clearly, it is the Jews (as Memri’s experts have concluded), for it is they who “think that the population of the world must first be greatly decreased.” How do they do this? First, they encourage homosexuality, both for men and women, which naturally leads to a decrease in heterosexual couples and hence of births. Then they encourage, within the family units that do exist, both sterilization of women and vasectomies for men. They may even try, according to Abdurrahman Dilipak, to present a coronavirus vaccine “as a medicine” (which is of course exactly what it is), but will sinisterly add an agent to it that will sterilize patients.

We still don’t understand why “the Jews” would want to decrease the world’s population, and Dilipak does not offer any guidance. Is it sheer malevolence? A belief that the Jews alone will be immune to the coronavirus and so it is they who will inherit the earth? There are certainly many more Israelis who have fallen sick with the coronavirus than Turks. Did the Jews miscalculate? Or was there never such a plan, to kill off only non-Jews, in the first place?
Turkish journalist Seyhan Avşar interviewed some Turks in a mosque on March 16. One woman, asked if she was concerned about coming to the mosque while the virus is spreading, said: “A virus cannot spread in Allah’s house. Also, the Quran has healing verses, we recite them continually. As our president said: ‘Cleanliness comes from faith.’… Also, if the virus is going to spread in the place where I came to read the Quran, then let it spread.” An older man said: “No one dies before their time. I would come to the mosque even if I knew I would die [because of it].” The same day, Turkey’s Ministry of Religious Affairs announced that, in order to limit the spread of the virus, prayers would not be performed in groups in mosques throughout the country.
Several aspects of Islam are on display here.

The first is inshallah-fatalism. For many Believers, it is Allah who knows – who decides — when each of us will die. As the older man quoted above says “No one dies before their time.” So there is no need, in his view, to take precautions against the coronavirus. Our stories are already written; the days of our deaths are known to Allah. The Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs, fortunately, is not filled with inshallah-fatalists, and has forbidden group prayers in mosques.

The woman who is interviewed about going to the mosque claims that the coronavirus cannot be spread “in Allah’s house.” But for extra protection, she admits that she continually repeats “healing verses” from the Quran, just in case her first belief, that the virus can’t be spread in mosques, turns out not to be true. The belief in these two different ways of preventing coronavirus infection – being in a mosque, where the coronavirus cannot be transmitted, and reciting “healing verses” – bespeak a deep credulity.

In sum, there appear to be a disturbing number of devout Muslims in Turkey who believe the spread of the coronavirus is a plot by “the Jews” to destroy those of “Turkish lineage” or even worse, it’s a Jewish plot to ensure that “the population of the world must first be greatly decreased.” No evidence is presented for these assertions; they are tossed off as if “everyone knows” these claims to be true. Nor has anyone tried to explain why the Jews would wish to decrease the world’s population in the first place.

This much is clear: first, some Turks have vivid antisemitic imaginations, and are not bothered by their lack of logic or their failure to produce evidence; second, Israelis are becoming infected with, and dying from, the coronavirus no differently from, and at the same rate as, all other peoples.

Hugh Fitzgerald


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The West Needs to Wake Up to China's Duplicity - Giulio Meotti

by Giulio Meotti

China is trying to buy our silence and complicity. Sadly, that is already taking place.

  • In an article in Xinhua, one of the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpieces, Beijing threatened to halt pharmaceutical exports, after which America would be "plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus... — Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health, Council on Foreign Relations, Twitter, March 4, 2020.
  • China's leaders are probably hoping that you cannot challenge a powerhouse that is selling you most of your vital medications.
  • "Hidden behind declarations of solidarity, China plans to buy out our troubled companies and infrastructure" — Bild, March 19, 2020.
  • Italy, a country hit hard by China's coronavirus pandemic, is now at the center of a strategic Chinese propaganda campaign. Beijing has sent doctors and supplies to Italy and is doing the same all over Europe. In Italy you can see posters saying, "Go, China!" China is trying to buy our silence and complicity. Sadly, that is already taking place.
  • China is not helping at this point out of "solidarity". The Chinese regime is now seeking to portray itself as the world's savior. Beijing, at the beginning of the pandemic, did not care about the lives of even its own people: it was busy censoring the news.
  • "The West is so tolerant, passive, accommodating and naive towards Beijing. Westerners... are seduced like an old man in front of a young girl.... Europe shows all its weakness. It does not realize that the Chinese offensive threatens its freedom and values". — Liao Yiwu, Chinese writer exiled in Berlin, Le Point International, April 6, 2019.

China is waging a double information war: one abroad and one for its own public, both led by the Chinese authorities with President Xi Jinping at its head. They apparently see the West as weak and submissive. We have been. (Photo by Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images)

The Chinese Communist Party is the "central threat of our times", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo astutely said in January. Back then, coronavirus was already spreading throughout China and over the world; the Communist Party's attempt to hide the epidemic proved that Pompeo was more than right. "My concern is that this cover-up, this disinformation that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in, is still denying the world the information it needs so that we can prevent further cases or something like this from recurring again", Pompeo added this week.

Had China responded to the outbreak three weeks earlier than it did, cases of coronavirus could have been reduced by 95%, according to a study by the University of Southampton. In those three weeks, China was busy hiding the truth. According to Steve Tsang, director of the University of London's SOAS China Institute, "It is the cover-up of the Communist Party for the first two months or so which created conditions to generate a global pandemic".

Chinese leaders, however, seemed obsessed only with the sustainability of their totalitarian regime, and as eager to silence any criticism as they have been in the past. Since January, the evidence of China's deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus in Wuhan has become a matter of public record. The Chinese government censored and detained brave doctors and whistleblowers who attempted to sound the alarm. One of China's richest entrepreneurs, Jack Ma, recently disclosed that China hid at least one-third of the coronavirus cases.

China has been able to grow into a superpower because it adopted economic practices from the West. No other country ever achieved such rapid economic and social progress for such a sustained period of time. However, hopes placed by the West in the Chinese market also nourished a dangerous mirage. We in the West thought that a modernizing China with a rising GDP would also democratize and come to respect transparency, pluralism and human rights. Instead, the mirage turned into a disaster as we watched China become even more of a "totalitarian state".

The nature of the Chinese regime -- its ban on the free press and all critical voices; the absolute domination of the Communist Party over social, spiritual and economic actors; imprisoning minorities and crushing freedom of conscience -- is also contributing to the emergence of this public health disaster. The cost, in terms of human lives and world's GDP, is immense.

The Chinese government's complicity in the pandemic is now an opportunity for the West to reevaluate its ties to Beijing. According to Guy Sorman, a French-American expert on China:
"Like useful idiots, we have not only helped the Party prosper but, even worse, we have given up on our humanitarian, democratic, and spiritual values in doing so."
"It is time", stated the American columnist, Marc A. Thiessen, "to immunize our economy and national security from our dependence on a deceitful regime".

China is waging a double information war: one abroad and one for its own public, both led by the Chinese authorities with President Xi Jinping at its head. They apparently see the West as weak and submissive. We have been.

China seems to believe that it is rising, while the West is in decline. "We find ourselves in what Germans call a Systemwettbewerb, a 'competition of systems' between liberal democracies and China's authoritarian state capitalism, which is increasingly projecting its absolute claim to power beyond its borders", said Thorsten Benner, co-founder and director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin. The Cold War with Russia was clearer.
"We had an ideological and security antagonist who was not an economic competitor. There was a Chinese wall between the economies of the West and the Soviet Union. Today, we are confronted with an opponent who is a powerful economic competitor and intricately involved in the political economy of the West. At the same time, we also depend on cooperation with China on transnational issues such as climate change and pandemics. China's authoritarian state capitalist system with its hegemonic ambitions is by far the most difficult strategic challenge the West has faced to date".
According to historian Niall Ferguson, "China today poses a bigger economic challenge than the Soviet Union ever did". The Soviet Union could never rely on a dynamic private sector, as China is doing. In some markets -- such as technology -- China is already ahead of the United States. Not only that; the Chinese economy, the world's second-largest, is more closely integrated with the West than the Soviet one ever was. China's totalitarian one-party rule allows greater personal freedoms, at least at the moment, than the Soviet Union did. The coronavirus epidemic is, in fact, partly a consequence of the freedom of movement Chinese citizens enjoy.

China has also been able to convince much of the West that it is not an enemy. Beijing's goal has appeared to be to try to draw the West -- and the rest of the world -- into its economic and ideological orbit. China opened markets in the West while it offered to its own people a kind of devil's bargain: give up your ideas and principles and you will enjoy material improvement and societal security. Meanwhile, China became an industrial and technological behemoth, a feat the Soviet Union could only dream about.

Consider, for instance, pharmaceuticals. According to Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, Chinese companies supply the US with more than 90% of its antibiotics, vitamin C and ibuprofen, as well as 70% of acetaminophen and 40-45% of heparin. The US was never dependent on the Soviet Union for that.

In an article in Xinhua, one of the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpieces, Beijing threatened to halt pharmaceutical exports, after which the US would be "plunged into the mighty sea of coronavirus". The Xinhua article was actually entitled, "Be bold: the world owes China a thank you."

Fox News host Tucker Carlson was right to blast members of the American elite for selling out their country to Chinese economic interests.

China's leaders are probably hoping that you cannot challenge a powerhouse that is selling you most of your vital medications.

Italy, a country hit hard by China's coronavirus pandemic, is now at the center of a strategic Chinese propaganda campaign. Beijing has sent doctors and supplies to Italy and is doing the same all over Europe. In Italy, you can see posters saying, "Go, China!" ["Forza China!"] China is trying to buy our silence and complicity. Sadly, that is already taking place. In February, while some Italian officials (on the political right) were urging Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to quarantine schoolchildren in the north who were just returning from holidays in China, Italy's highest officials were busy trying to please Beijing. Italy's President, Sergio Mattarella; Minister for Culture, Dario Franceschini, and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, hosted a concert in Rome for "Italian-Chinese friendship". China's President Xi Jinping warmly thanked them.

China is not helping at this point out of "solidarity". The Chinese regime is now seeking to portray itself as the world's savior. Beijing, at the beginning of the pandemic, did not care about the lives of even its own people: it was busy censoring the news.

"Hidden behind declarations of solidarity, China plans to buy out our troubled companies and infrastructure", according to Germany's leading newspaper, Bild. Italy was the first G-7 country to sign up for China's global investment program, a deal that rightly raised concerns in the US. China seems to be ready to continue its expansion into the Italy's economy and strategic interests.

China's Communist Party also seems to be at war with the free flow of information internationally. The regime, in the most sweeping media ejection from China since the death of Mao Zedong, recently expelled US journalists. Beijing has also tried to shift the blame for the pandemic to the US by saying that coronavirus originated with US military personnel in Wuhan. Lijian Zhao, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, posted statements to that effect on Chinese social media and Twitter. The coronavirus crisis is now a battleground for Chinese propaganda.

The paradox is that the Global Times, a media outlet of the Chinese Communist Party, spreads false anti-US propaganda on Twitter, which is banned in China. Twitter, meanwhile, banned the website Zero Hedge, for publishing an article linking a Chinese scientist to the outbreak of coronavirus. Twitter also unfortunately decided that China's Communist Party does not violate the rules of social media by spreading lies against the US.

Already a few years ago, in 2013, a secret Chinese Communist Party directive known as Document No. 9 called for the rejection of seven Western ideas, such as "Western constitutional democracy", "universal values" of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market "neo-liberalism," and "nihilist" criticisms of the Party's questionable past. Targets to combat included "Western embassies, consulates, media operations and nongovernmental organizations". Huang Kunming, the Party's propaganda chief, attacks "some Western countries who use their technological advantages and dominance of discourse that they have accumulated over a long period to peddle so-called 'universal values'". China's Education Minister Yuan Guiren, a former president of Beijing Normal University, threw in: "Never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes".

In speeches and official documents, the President Xi talks about a struggle between "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and "Western anti-China forces" with their "extremely malicious" ideas of freedom, democracy and human rights. The West seems to be their target. According to a new study by the International Republican Institute:
"The Chinese Communist Party... is employing a unique set of tactics in the economic and information domains that undermines many developing countries' democratic institutions and future prosperity as their dependence on China grows."
China evidently understands how to use Western media for its own propaganda. "The Vatican and the Western business elite", wrote Michael Brendan Dougherty, "once instrumental in the West's winning the Cold War, have been brought to heel by the Chinese Communist party". The Chinese regime has succeeded where the Soviet regime failed. Last December, a six-year-old girl in London preparing Christmas cards found a message inside: "We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China, forced to work against our will", read the handwritten note. "Please help us and notify human rights organization". Western capitalism has even become complicit with Chinese slavery.

Western brands are not alone in caving in out of fear of "offending" the Communist Party. Western culture has been eagerly submitting itself to self-censorship about China. "The West is so tolerant, passive, accommodating and naive towards Beijing," said Liao Yiwu, a Chinese writer exiled in Berlin.
"Westerners look at China with incredulous eyes, they are seduced like an old man in front of a young girl. Everyone trembles before Chinese omnipotence. Europe shows all its weakness. It does not realize that the Chinese offensive threatens its freedom and values".
China's embassy in the Czech Republic is now financing a study course at Charles University, the most prestigious in the country. British universities are today largely dependent on Chinese students; conservative estimates put their combined tuition fees at about $1.75 billion. Australia is now even more reliant, with 200,000 Chinese students. If they go back to China or if Chinese donations stop coming to these faculties, they stand to lose about $4 billion.

The 1,500 branches of the Confucius Institute that China's regime has established in 140 countries offer language and "cultural" programs. However, according to Matt Schrader, a China analyst with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, these institutes are "propaganda tools". Last October, Belgium banned the head of Confucius Institute in Brussels, Xinning Song, after security services accused him of spying for Beijing.

In 2013, when the University of Sydney shut down a talk by Tibet's Dalai Lama on campus, many saw the university's links to Chinese interests as being involved in the lobbying efforts to stop the previously approved event. Topics such as Tibet, Taiwan independence, or the dissident Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, are taboo.

According to a Bloomberg report, China is also infiltrating Europe's political landscape by supporting political parties and inviting politicians to China. President Xi, taking his ideological battle abroad, even donated a statue of Karl Marx to his German hometown Trier on the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth.

Beijing, unsurprisingly, has been using Western multilateral institutions to its own advantage. As Michael Collins detailed in a report for the Council on Foreign Relations, Beijing has expanded its presence in the World Health Organization. "China's WHO contributions have grown by 52% since 2014 to approximately $86 million", Collins states.
"This is largely due to China's increase in assessed contributions which are based on a country's economic development and population. However, China has also slightly increased voluntary contributions from $8.7 million in 2014 to approximately $10.2 million in 2019".
Like the former Soviet Union, China now seems to be building a giant apparatus of control. They call it the "Internet police". Try to imagine the former East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, using the most advanced surveillance system in the world: This is China in 2020.

Communist dictatorships always end up following the same script. The Soviet writer Boris Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature but the communist regime prevented him from receiving it. In China, literary critic, writer, poet, and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded Nobel Prize for Peace but was never able to receive it: he died under guard in a Chinese hospital. The Soviet Union had forced-labor camps just as China does. Chinese dissident Harry Wu, who endured 19 years in jail, compared the Chinese camps (laogai) to the Soviet gulag and Nazi concentration camps.

In the Soviet Union, writers, politicians, generals and doctors who were silenced and executed under Stalin, were later "rehabilitated" by the Soviet leaders after Stalin's death. The Chinese Communist Party just "exonerated" Dr. Li Wenliang who warned about the coronavirus outbreak. He was accused of "making false comments and disturbing the social order", then forced to recant, and soon after, at the age of 33, died of the disease. It is a shameful attempt by the Chinese officials to whitewash their own image.

In a column last week for the Spanish daily El Pais, the Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa wrote about coronavirus:
"Nobody seems to be warning that none of this could have happened in the world if popular China were a free country and democratic rather than a dictatorship".
Vargas Llosa then likened the epidemic outbreak to Russia's Chernobyl disaster during the Soviet era. Both dictatorships censored and silenced information about the crises. In response, Beijing's regime not only called Vargas Llosa "irresponsible", but also banned his books from Chinese e-book platforms. Vargas Llosa has warned Western "fools" not to believe in China, "the free market with a political dictatorship", and that "what happened with the coronavirus should open the eyes of the blind".

The risk now is that, instead of Chernobyl which led, in part, to Soviet Union's downfall, China's communist regime will enjoy reinforcement -- especially if, due to the coronavirus crisis, the American people in November fail to support the first president in the last 40 years who has openly challenged China.

The Western dream of a "renaissance of the Chinese nation" has now turned into a globalized nightmare. Hundreds of millions across the world are in lockdown; thousands are dead; the economies of Western countries are paralyzed, with some on the verge of collapse. Empty shops and streets are commonplace.

This might be what analysts call "the end of liberal order". China's communists today are more capitalist than Marxist, at least at the state level. President Xi has adopted "market Leninism" -- mixing a state-run economy with a "terrifying form of totalitarianism". The West needs to wake up to China's duplicity.

Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.


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