As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, more and more citizens of that country are squarely placing the blame for the pandemic on the Chinese government and demanding that Beijing pay massive amounts of compensation for the damage it has caused.
That trend is most evident in the U.S. Congress. By the end of March, some members of Congress had introduced resolutions demanding the Chinese government be investigated and held accountable for the spread of the virus through concrete demands for compensation.
Among them was a joint resolution simultaneously introduced by Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) into both houses of Congress, with the support of about 10 legislators. Its main points were:
- First, China’s deliberate and unconscionable decision to orchestrate an elaborate and systematic coverup of the wide-ranging and deadly implications of coronavirus led to the deaths of numerous innocent people worldwide, including American citizens.
- Second, the resolution said that the U.S. Congress should demand that China accept legal responsibility for the “harm, loss, and destruction” throughout the world caused by its actions, and accordingly pay reparations for the resulting damages.
- Third, the bill proposed that all countries that were hurt by China’s actions should “quantify the harm caused” by those actions and “design a [legal] mechanism for delivering compensation.”
As a matter of fact, a number of similarly strong resolutions aimed at China have been submitted by members of Congress. However, in reality pinning responsibility for a pandemic on a given sovereign nation and then extracting compensation from the government of that nation would no doubt face numerous obstacles.
With that in mind, one of the signers of the resolution in question, Congressman Jim Banks (R., Indiana), proposed concrete measures for securing this compensation from China.
The required amount could be covered by having the Chinese government forgive a portion of the U.S. debt it holds. Or the U.S. government could impose special tariffs on Chinese imports to create a “Coronavirus Victims Compensation Fund” that would accumulate the money to cover compensation.
Notably, this spiraling growth in demands for forcing China to accept responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus have centered on Republican members of Congress with close ties to the Trump administration.
At the beginning of April, Senator Lindsey Graham (R., South Carolina), a close ally of President Donald Trump, joined the chorus demanding that the Beijing government pay the United States compensation for coronavirus damage.
“This is the third pandemic to come out of China,” Graham declared on April 16, pointing out how the pandemic resulted from coverups and false information from the Chinese government. “All of the evidence indicates that they locked their country down to protect their people and they did not tell the world about the true state of play inside of China.”
Likewise, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R., Tennessee) said that in light of the fact that the Chinese government bears direct responsibility for the global pandemic that originated in Wuhan, she was proposing a resolution calling for China to waive a major portion of the U.S. debt it owns, which is around $1 trillion USD in total.
These moves in Congress reflect the fact that growing numbers of Americans blame China for the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Already, large class-action lawsuits against the Chinese government have been filed in individual states, including Florida, Texas, and Nevada, by local smaller businesses and other parties demanding compensation for damages they have suffered due to the coronavirus.
A Harris Poll conducted online between April 3 and April 5 showed that 77% of Americans surveyed felt China was responsible for the spread of the coronavirus, while 54% said that the Chinese government should be required to pay reparations for the damage it had caused.
With this trend in mind, it seems likely that in the days to come the question of whether or not to demand compensation from China will become a major national political agenda in the United States.
(Click here for access to the original column in Japanese.)
Author: Yoshihisa Komori
Yoshihisa Komori is The Sankei Shimbun’s associate correspondent in Washington, D.C.