Life in Wuhan is returning to normal, but there are doubts China’s relationship with the world will be the same after the pandemic. (AP: Ng Han Guan)
As some Australian politicians have learned — to their cost — speaking out on China can be a career-limiting move, but the emergence of COVID-19 in Wuhan has emboldened politicians who want answers from Beijing about the origin of the virus and suspected coverups in the early weeks of the outbreak.
It’s understood the Trump administration is investigating intelligence reports that suggest the virus escaped from a Wuhan lab, rather than emerged from a wet market where live animals were being sold.
It’s a theory rejected by the Chinese Government, but one that received tacit support from our Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, this morning.
“The US is saying they’ve got documentation which demonstrates that the virus had a particular path or origin, I think they’ll detail all of that information,” he said on Channel Nine’s Today show this morning.
“But I do think there will be a reset about the way in which the world interacts with China.
“We do want more transparency.”
That call for China to come clean is one thing, suggesting a reset in the way we view and interact with China is a far broader issue that will find quiet support on both sides of politics.
“When you see their involvement in foreign interference and cyber, all of these aspects need to, I think, be looked at again,” the Home Affairs Minister said.
“I think it’s a good thing that there’s [some] transparency and that hopefully you can have China answering these questions that are reasonably put and people can have more confidence.”
Mr Dutton said with more than 60 Australians dead, the Chinese Government owed us all an explanation.
“All of those families would demand answers and transparency, I don’t think it’s too much to ask,” he said.
“It would certainly be demanded of us if Australia was at the epicentre of this virus making its way into society.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack agrees China has some explaining to do, though maybe not right now.
“Yes, certainly china does have some questions to answer over COVID-19 … but at the moment … we need to get through this crisis,” he said.
What is not clear is exactly what changes to the relationship are being suggested by Mr Dutton and others.
As for the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has said the Government is already pursuing a robust approach to China based on national interest
“We’ve always been vigilant about these things,” he said.
“At the same time, we’ve continued to pursue a productive, comprehensive strategic partnership with China,
“But we have an eyes-wide-open relationship.”
The COVID-19 epidemic presents opportunities and risks for any recalibration. What that will look like no-one yet knows.
The post-COVID world is, for the moment, a mystery.
What you need to know about coronavirus: