Mar 11, 2020 - World

Robert O'Brien: China's coronavirus cover-up "cost the world" two months

Robert O'Brien with Trump. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

National security adviser Robert O’Brien claimed Wednesday that an initial cover-up of the coronavirus in China “cost the world community two months” and exacerbated the global outbreak.

Why it matters: In the face of a global crisis, the world’s two most powerful countries are pointing fingers at one another.

What he’s saying: Asked about China’s initial response, as well as spurious claims from some Chinese officials and media that the outbreak may not have started in China, O’Brien emphasized that “this virus did not originate in the United States, it originated in Wuhan.”

  • “Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” O’Brien said, citing instances of doctors who were “silenced."
  • “It probably cost the world community two months to respond,” he continued, adding that if teams from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been invited in early on, “I think we could have dramatically curtailed what happened in China and what’s now happening across the world.”
  • Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, O’Brien echoed other administration officials in saying President Trump’s “courageous decision” in late January to block air travel from China “bought the United States six to eight weeks to prepare for the virus.”

The flipside: As China begins to get its coronavirus outbreak under control, authorities are going on the offensive to rewrite the narrative that the global epidemic is Beijing's fault, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.

  • "The [Chinese Communist Party] is masterful at rewriting history and we’re watching them do it in real time," Bill Bishop, author of the Sinocism newsletter, told Axios.

Worth noting: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others have been criticized for using the term “Wuhan virus,” with critics claiming it adds unnecessary stigma and is needlessly antagonistic toward China.

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The China challenge stumps the 2020 candidates

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Most U.S. presidential candidates identify China as a serious national security challenge, but they're short on details as to how they'd tackle the economic, technological and human rights threats posed by the world’s largest authoritarian power.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to reshape the world in its own image and amass enough power to marginalize the United States and Western allies regardless of whether China is contending with President Trump for another four years — or one of his Democratic rivals.

G7 statement scrapped after U.S. insisted coronavirus be called "Wuhan virus"

Pompeo briefs reporters Wednesday. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign ministers of the G7 countries failed to agree to a joint statement following a video conference Wednesday in part because the Trump administration insisted the statement refer to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan virus," Der Spiegel first reported and multiple U.S. outlets have confirmed.

Why it matters: The world's two most powerful countries are in a battle of narratives over the pandemic, with some in Beijing spreading disinformation about its origins and U.S. officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo increasingly blaming the Chinese government.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - World

China to temporarily bar entry of foreigners to stop spread of coronavirus

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua/Ju Peng via Getty Images

China will temporarily suspend entry for foreign nationals with visas or residence permits beginning at midnight on March 28 in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday.

Why it matters: It's a sign that China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, is seeking to curb the number of imported cases in order to stop its epidemic from flaring up again. Diplomatic visas will not be affected.

Go deeperArrowMar 26, 2020 - World