If you have been troubled by the government’s failure to get tough on the country responsible for our present malaise, never fear. The Foreign Office has issued a joint statement with ten EU members warning this regime of ‘grave consequences’ for its ‘standing in the international arena’. That’ll put Beijing in its place. Well, not quite. The statement wasn’t directed at China and the deadly pandemic it has unleashed upon the world. It was another scolding for the Israelis, this time over plans to apply sovereignty to West Bank settlements in line with the Trump peace plan. With 250,000 fatalities and the world economy on a ventilator, it’s about time someone stood up to the real global menace: organic date-growers in the Jordan Valley.
When defence secretary Ben Wallace allows that China might have questions to answer about its handling of Covid-19, it isn’t nothing but it’s still small beer. The government’s diplomatic response to the coronavirus outbreak has been weaker than water. Downing Street’s most punitive sanctions have been reserved for the British people: lockdown, businesses shuttered, fines for unnecessary travel. The only chance of China hearing a harsh word from Whitehall is if a member of the Politburo makes a cheeky late-night wine run to Sainsbury’s.
Wallace is right to say that ‘China needs to be open and transparent’ but what do he and his cabinet colleagues plan to do when China ignores him? The Chinese Communist Party waited almost a week before revealing the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus, deliberately under-reported infection rates, rounded up doctors who attempted to get the truth out, and obstructed international research into the pandemic. Since then it has pursued a campaign of misinformation about the origins of the virus, taunted the United States with a snide viral video, and even threatened Australia with a boycott after the Morrison government backed calls for an independent inquiry.