The Free Market Will Punish China for COVID-19 Failures

There is no need for official sanctions; the manufacturing exodus from China has already begun.

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Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China. July 7, 2017. (photo: http://www.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/55001/photos)

The global marketplace giveth, and the global marketplace taketh away.

Just ask Saudi Crown Prince and former international golden boy Mohammed Bin Salman. A casual glance at the brutal killing of Saudi national, expat and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi may give the impression that the Saudi government, and its royal family weren’t punished for the crime.

On the contrary. Whether or not they were responsible for the killing, the Saudi Prince and the Saudi government were punished far more effectively than ever they would have been in the past.

Critics of the the Crown Prince, and of the Saudi Royal Family, who don’t believe there has been justice for Khashoggi are perfectly correct. In a perfect world, the man who commanded the five Saudis who were ultimately executed for the murder would face a trial by a jury of his peers, where evidence could be produced against him and he would have a chance to defend himself in a court of law.

However, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is not subject to American laws, nor to our definition of justice. Neither is he subject to the authority of any other country on earth save his own. In order to lay hands on him and try him for the murder, the U.S. and any other country that cared to do so would have to invade with military force and extract him.

Or threaten to do so, if the Saudis didn’t hand the prince over to face international justice.

In either scenario, there would be an armed invasion, followed by a war. Whereupon the Middle Eastern allies of Saudi Arabia- and other larger allies like Russia and China- would fight against the U.S. and its allies.

Even if the entire world wasn’t consumed by a giant mushroom cloud in the ensuing world war, millions would unquestionably die. We are living in a post-nuclear age, after all.

Would that be justice for Khashoggi?

Where would be the justice for those whose lives had been lost, for the civilian casualties, for the environmental and economic devastation wrought by war?

Of course not. War, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (and probably many others) has aptly noted, is a horror.

Besides extracting a royal ruler from a sovereign allied nation by force and subjecting the Saudi Prince to our western concept of justice, there are other ways to punish Saudi Arabia for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.

Economic sanctions are the global equivalent of a fine. Would a fine, the brunt of which would be borne by the working class of Saudi Arabia, not its ruling class, be justice for torturing, murdering and dismembering a dissenting journalist?

Again, no.

But Saudi Arabia, and in particular Prince Mohammad Bin Salman have already been punished for Khashoggi’s death, whether they are responsible or not. And in particularly poetic fashion.

In the global free marketplace.

Because if MBS, as his friends call him, was really responsible for ordering the death of Jamal Khashoggi, he did it for one reason; to silence a dissident, expatriated journalist.

Jamal Khashoggi was a thorn in the side of the Saudi Arabian crown prince for years. From the Washington Post to the international press, Khashoggi had shouted to the rooftops accusations against the Saudi government and the royal family that were threatening MBS and his future plans for Saudi Arabia.

Before Khashoggi was killed, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman had been working on a massive project to attract global investment in Saudi Arabia. These plans were years in the making. MBS had spent the past decade cultivating the international relationships needed to help realize his economic vision for Saudi Arabia.

Drumming up interest and support in his grand plan hadn’t been easy. Khashoggi, writing critically on the kingdom, was a threat to all that.

In death, Khashoggi became a far bigger threat.

If MBS did order the killing, the murder accomplished exactly the opposite of what the prince must have hoped it would.

Instead of silencing Khashoggi permanently, his killing amplified his message. Suddenly under the microscope of a free international press were the very issues Jamal Khashoggi had tried all his life- and failed- to draw attention to.

The way that the murder was caught- via technology- and its perpetrators caught on film, not only carrying out the bags into which the victims body had been placed, but impersonating the murdered man in order to confuse investigators- were especially embarrassing for the kingdom.

Overnight, Mohammad Bin Salman’s years of planning fell to pieces.

International investors ran for the hills. Long-standing relationships cooled, former friends distanced themselves from the disgraced Prince. Formerly cooperative and enthusiastic investors and partners couldn’t run fast enough from MBS and from Saudi Arabia.

Why would any savvy international finance manager invest billions to do business in a country that assassinates- on foreign soil- journalists critical of the government? Talk about liability.

This is the global marketplace, after all. Saudi Arabia is only one of hundreds of countries who want very badly to participate more robustly in world trade. There is no shortage of investment opportunities around the world; and until COVID-19 took a huge bite out of world revenues, investors had plenty of money to spend.

They will again. But they are far less likely to spend it expanding operations into Saudi Arabia.

So too, China.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Chinese government behaved in a dishonest, self-interested and unprincipled way that officials around the world are having trouble excusing. Early in the crisis, China forcibly silenced whistleblowers and imprisoned medical professionals who dared speak publicly about the virus. That was bad enough and cost many lives, many of them Chinese.

The reticence of the Chinese government on the subject of the Wuhan virus might be explained by a theory that started out on the furthest fringes of conspiracy and has since moved squarely to the center.

Did COVID-19 escape from a Chinese laboratory studying bat viruses?

Located a stones throw from the wet markets of Wuhan, the laboratory has in the past been identified by scientific experts as a potential risk for contamination of its outer environs.

If indeed this is the case, and more and more mainstream media outlets are seriously entertaining the possibility, the Chinese government would have good reason to stay silent on the subject.

Silence, needless to say, and the withholding of critical scientific data during a viral pandemic is not helpful.

But it was the behavior of the Chinese government on the subject of medical supplies, chain of supply and entire supply lines that will damage the backbone of the Chinese economy- manufacturing- for decades.

Perhaps permanently.

The records show that while the Chinese government was silencing its own citizens on the coronavirus and reassuring the international community there was no virus in Wuhan, it was at the same time buying bulk medical supplies from other nations and stockpiling them.

Worse, when countries like the U.S.- who had come to rely almost exclusively on China for manufacturing- needed medical supplies, the Chinese government threatened to withhold them.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, even as the body count continues to rise and companies groan under the economic strain of economic shutdowns around the world, the manufacturing exodus from China has already begun.

The best part about the free market doing the punishment; China will have no one to retaliate against. No government can be held responsible; no single company or entity must fear the wrath of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The Chinese government can’t force companies in other countries to manufacture or do business in China, any more than Saudi Arabia can.

Chinese authorities will have no one to blame but themselves as, in boardrooms and backrooms all across the globe companies and investors discuss the possibility of manufacturing in China.

And pass.

This is not the first pandemic the world has seen; it won’t be the last. But gone are the days when any sovereign nation will easily allow its critical supply lines to be dominated by Chinese manufacturers.

Countries like Romania, India, and the United States would be happy to take over some of China’s manufacturing duties.

Everyone needs the work.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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