It has now been a year since China first identified a patient in Wuhan stricken with an unknown pneumonia, now known as COVID-19. Since then, the United States and other free nations, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, have led a remarkable and unprecedented vaccine development effort that is delivering hope across the world.
This is no accident. Time and again, democracies that value transparency, the rule of law, property rights, and free-market capitalism have produced innovative solutions to public health crises. Freedom unleashes human potential, and competition spurs better outcomes, at lower costs.
In contrast, authoritarian regimes control information and stifle innovation. The Chinese Communist Party punished brave Chinese scientists, doctors, and journalists who tried to alert the world to the dangers of the spreading virus, allowing a controllable outbreak to become a global pandemic.
Even today, nearly a year after the world first learned of the outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party is still spreading disinformation regarding the virus and obstructing a World Health Organization investigation into its origin and spread. It is also peddling vaccines that lack essential data on safety and efficacy, due to a fundamental disregard for transparency and accountability regarding results from clinical trials. Both actions put Chinese citizens, and the world, at risk.
Nations of the world should demand transparency from Beijing about the origin and spread of the pandemic that has led to more than one million lives lost and millions of livelihoods ruined. If they do not do so, China’s record of public-health crises makes another future pandemic originating from China depressingly likely.