Western governments are sorely underestimating how dependent they are on China

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As the formal but ill-defined prime ministerial stand-in, Dominic Raab has sometimes appeared hesitant to take the kind of decisions that only prime ministers can and should take, such as extending the lockdown. However, this week, Mr Raab asserted something with real clarity that the world as a whole is only slowly coming to terms with: that there can be no return to “business as usual” with China when the coronavirus pandemic passes.

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Perhaps China is sensing this too. The surprise revision of the latest death toll for Wuhan, whence the virus came, only lends weight to the suspicion that China has been massaging its coronavirus statistics for some time. Indeed, it is widely accepted that China underplayed the Covid-19 outbreak for too long, misleading the World Health Organisation and others about the ease of human-to-human transmission. Some of the doctors who attempted to warn the world have since died of Covid-19.

Regardless of how such early misunderstandings (to put it politely) about the disease arose, they have enraged Donald Trump, and cost the world dear. Questions are rightly being asked about the reliability of Chinese official data – and more fundamentally about why China and other countries still permit sometimes unsanitary wildlife markets, which have long proved to be incubators for zoonotic diseases.

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