As evidence continued to mount that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a Chinese lab, former President Donald Trump upped the ante in a speech to the North Carolina GOP on Saturday, calling for China to pay $10 trillion in reparations to the U.S. and other countries for damages the virus has caused. As a first step, he said, the United States and all other nations indebted to China should “collectively” cancel the debt as a “down payment” on the reparations. This would be in addition to a 100 percent tariff on all incoming Chinese goods that he suggested America impose.
“The nations of the world should no longer owe money to China,” Trump declared. “China should owe money to the nations of the world.”
While President Trump had previously called for China to pay last year, these demands represent the most aggressive and specific plan put forward by any public figure to date for how such an outcome could be achieved. They came the evening before two leading scientists published a piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the virus bears all the hallmarks of having been intentionally engineered for maximum infectiousness and was likely not a naturally occurring phenomenon as the media, the scientific establishment, and the Democrats have insisted for more than a year.
As President Trump has previously pointed out, from the moment COVID-19 first became a global concern, the Communist Party of China (CCP) suspiciously refused to share data about the early days of the outbreak.
Yet despite not having a clear view of those early days, the overwhelming narrative has been that the virus “jumped” from animals to humans. The world was asked to believe that the disease originated from a wet market in Wuhan, China. Wet markets sell live animals, a majority of which are not domesticated. These markets have been a constant source of concern as they promote “risky eating behaviors,” and many of the wild animals pose significant risks to humans. The CCP attempted to close these markets in the past yet had to reopen them once it became clear that there was no immediate way to feed the Chinese people without them. The theory which China and its apologists put forward was that some creature, most likely a pangolin or a bat, carried the disease, which was then passed on to a human. Suggestions that the disease may have come from the lab or even been man-made were met with aggressive pushback and even accusations of bigotry.
Yet throughout the pandemic, there has been sufficient evidence to, at minimum, make the so-called “lab-leak” theory plausible. As a former national security official wrote last July, “Suggesting that an outbreak of a deadly bat coronavirus coincidentally occurred near the only level 4 virology institute in all of China—which happened to be studying the closest known relative of that exact virus—strains credulity.” Despite the apparent logic of such arguments, people questioning the official narrative have been called “conspiracy theorists.”
The Lancet, one of the oldest and best-regarded medical journals in the world, published an open letter in which 27 leading scientists attacked the lab-leak theory and even suggested that reporting on it was a “threat” to China sharing information on the virus. Trump and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) were attacked repeatedly for questioning the origin of the disease, with many suggesting that the promotion of the lab-leak theory was contributing to racial attacks against Asian-Americans.
New York Times reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, who writes almost exclusively on COVID-19 for the paper, suggested that the theory had “racist roots” and that we should “stop talking about the lab-leak theory.” Most notably, Facebook was actively removing any content that suggested the disease was man-made (a measure they have now reversed).
Now that the lab origin theory has begun to be widely acknowledged as credible and perhaps even probable, Trump’s speech marked what is likely to be the start of renewed pressure on China for answers, accountability, and potentially even compensation.
Historically speaking, there is precedent for one nation paying reparations to others. Germany paid a combined $7 billion to Israel in the years following World War II, and other nations have paid former colonies.
By some estimates, COVID could, in the final tally, cost Americans over $16 trillion and almost 600,000 lives. Nearly 4 million lives have been claimed by the virus around the world.
If the evidence that the virus originated in a lab continues to grow, it is hard to imagine that China will be able to escape discussion of its responsibility indefinitely.
After initially canceling the U.S. government investigation into the origins of the virus, President Biden has recently directed intelligence communities to issue a report on the origins of the COVID-19 virus in 90 days. While an answer might be discovered, the embarrassment such a declaration would pose for both the Biden administration and the intelligence community itself makes it unlikely that the case will be definitively proven in the report. Nothing Biden has done as president indicates that he is prepared to entertain the idea of sending China a “bill,” as his predecessor suggested on Saturday.
Despite this, former President Trump apparently remains resolved: “We demand reparations from the Communist Party of China,” he said. “China must pay. They must pay.”