Don’t look to China
The author is the editor-in-chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Wuhan, an advanced industrial city nicknamed “The Chicago of China,” has become the incubator of a new coronavirus. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s one-man governance system made a decision to isolate the city, and public sentiment in the city of 11 million are boiling over as everyone tries to battle the disease. The city was the venue of the Wuchang Uprising in 1911, an armed rebellion against the ruling Qing Dynasty, and the Xi regime probably feels worried about the current situation.
The Xinhai Revolution — which ended China’s 2,200-year-long history of imperialism and launched the Republic of China with Sun Yat-sen as the first provisional president — started with the uprising of Wuchang. The world is now paying close attention to the fate of the people of Wuhan, the city that helped end the Qing Dynasty.
Article 2 of China’s constitution, declared in March 1912, said all power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people. It was a moment that people trapped in a feudal order were reborn into a modern system in which they could exercise their right of self-determination.
If the socialist government of China hides the outbreak and allows over 2,000 deaths, it is against the constitutional principle.
“As long as there remains a dictatorship of the Communist Party, which puts priority on the party over 1.4 billion people, the country is vulnerable in a crisis,” said a Chinese professor in the United States. The Chinese people are now questioning the raison d’être of the People’s Republic of China, built through Mao Zedong’s peasant revolution and ruled by Xi’s dictatorship.
The ruling party and the administration of Korea have also lost their bearings amid the deadly outbreak. “The sovereignty of [South] Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people,” says Clause 2 of Article 1 of the Constitution. Is this clause being respected?
Korea recorded the second largest number of infections in the world because of the neglect of the powers that be. The Korean Medical Association made six recommendations to the government to ban all travelers from China. If the government’s top priority was the people’s lives and safety, it should have listened to the doctors. The government, however, tried to please China instead. The authority of the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also diminished. As a result, the majority’s will and interests were ignored. The principle of the republic was denied and all state authority came from the Blue House, not from the people.
“China’s hardship is our hardship,” President Moon Jae-in recently told Xi. Those were soothing words. But sacrificing the Korean people to please China is not the job of the Korean president. When Korea only had 186 infections of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) a few years ago, China practically imposed travel bans on Koreans, and Chinese tourists canceled trips to Korea.
The number of total infections in China was 77,041 as of Feb. 22, and it recorded 2,445 deaths. As of now, 41 countries from around the world, including the United States, imposed entry bans on travelers from all areas of China. Even North Korea and Russia — traditional allies of China — blocked their borders. Israel and Bahrain also imposed entry bans on travelers from Korea. It is impossible to understand why the Moon administration is not imposing a full-scale entry ban on Chinese.
Japan, known for its safety, is in a poor state. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rejected opinions of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to save the Tokyo Olympics, but only invited disaster. An infection control expert said the situation inside the Diamond Princess cruise ship was far more serious than the outside world realized. He said the ship was in chaos. A London mayoral candidate even suggested that London should host the Olympics instead of Tokyo.
Korea is the most advanced country in terms of market economics, democracy and press freedom in Asia. It could have become the Paris of Asia with its outstanding medical system after the infection control systems in China and Japan failed. And yet, the Moon administration messed up that opportunity by insisting on inviting Xi to Seoul during the first half of this year to help find a breakthrough in deadlocked inter-Korean relations. The central committee of clinical medicine, created by Korean doctors and experts, warned that about 40 percent of the people could be infected and the country may see over 20,000 deaths. Unless a full entry ban is imposed on travelers from China, a nightmare will visit the Korean Peninsula.
China is suspected of manipulating statistics on infections. With such a country, we can only be a community sharing interests — we should not be a community desiring a shared fate. “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic,” said Joseph Stalin. In a totalitarian state, individual identities are ignored. Human rights are a luxury. That’s what happens in China, where neglected people are dying in an isolated city. For us, keeping relations with civilized countries that respect democracy, international norms and human rights is more important.
A virus is a neutral being that has no malicious intent toward humans. On Earth, there are 1.6 million different kinds of viruses, but we only know of 1 percent. Therefore, disinfection must be approached with science, not politics or religion. To this end, we must reduce the China risk. Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, should be given full authority for her expertise and experiences.
Four years ago, the center concluded in its white paper on the MERS outbreak that the problem was not the camels but the public health system of this country. If a white paper on the new coronavirus outbreak was being written now, it would state that the problem was not sick bats, but the Moon administration’s attempts to placate China. Where is this country headed and who has the sovereignty?
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 24, Page 31