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China coronavirus taxi Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The China Blame Game

Much of the world thinks that China’s initial mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak helped to turn a local viral epidemic into a global disaster. But is it wise to treat the country as an international pariah while the pandemic still rages?

In this Big Picture, Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, says Western liberal democracies should resist unrestrained China-bashing and instead try to persuade the country’s communist leaders to work with them in overcoming the current crisis. Chatham House’s Jim O’Neill also highlights the dangers of finger-pointing, arguing that other countries should stop fixating on China’s initial failures and seek to learn from its successful subsequent containment efforts.

Indeed, the pandemic, says Keyu Jin of the London School of Economics, gives China an opportunity to win the trust of the United States and other leading powers by helping to lead the global response. But Minxin Pei of Claremont McKenna College argues that efforts to burnish the country’s international image will most likely fail, and urges the Chinese authorities to share their vast amounts of data and knowledge about the virus.

But with whom should they share it, asks Brahma Chellaney of the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, who accuses the World Health Organization of complicity in China’s deception regarding the pandemic, and says the WHO can rebuild its credibility only with new leadership. More broadly, Chellaney argues, the COVID-19 crisis is a defining moment for the world and should catalyze sweeping reforms of international institutions.

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