Issues & Insights

Coronavirus Panic: An Opportunity To Hit ‘Reset’ With China

It’s an old and familiar saying: “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.”

Not to mention:

  • Poisoned, fake-brand THC vapes killing our kids via the vaping lung illness outbreak of last summer. (Oh. You missed that foreign-sourced public health crisis?) Plus floods of counterfeit nicotine e-cigarette brands habitualizing high-schoolers and undermining heavy-handed efforts at home to keep the products away from kids.
  • Thousands of dangerous, fraudulent, mis- and wrongly-labeled, and even banned products swamping the world’s largest retail platform – and driven to the top of listings, claiming a coveted but misleading “Amazon Choice,” through lies, bogus sales and bribes.
  • Decades of systematic cheating on trade agreements hollowing out America’s industrial base.
  • Blatant and ubiquitous identity theft, cyberfraud and cyberattacks – including, ironically, unrelenting unleashing of computer “viruses.”
  • Sponsorship of rogue nations rushing headlong to develop nukes that can take out Los Angeles.
  • Of course, pandemics that, in flea-like fashion, rapidly infest the entire globe.
  • And resulting record stock-market crashes, free falls in energy and other commodity markets, plummeting bond yields, and maybe, a recession that could undo the unparalleled job gains of the last few years.

Hey, Wall Street! Ya maybe paying attention yet?

One hates to say “We told you so.” But we told you so: that there was a plethora of grounds beyond illegal trade practices not to do business with China.

And with the coronavirus and its far-reaching effects across our public health, society and now economy, we’ve just been reminded of another reason – one bringing new meaning to the term “economic contagion.”

By the way – before we get started on empty charges of “racism,” the opening aphorism does not imply in any way that Chinese people are “dogs.”

Although to say that their government and business leadership are such would be to insult every canine species.

What might have been your first hint that China’s tyrants are not reliable, benign and mutually beneficial business partners?

The tanks running down protesting students even as their dispatchers were seeking to normalize relations and gain access to our markets?

Demonstrations of benevolence in blowing up churches, enslaving pastors, harvesting religious dissidents’ organs, imprisoning ethnic minorities in concentration camps and deploying expropriated technology to create the world’s most pervasive surveillance state?

The massive and abiding competitive advantage gained by forcing laborers to toil hundreds of hours of overtime for months on end – under constant watch (even in the toilet) and in unsafe, unsanitary working and living conditions?

Rampant looting and forced surrender of prized intellectual property as a price of doing business?

Previous scandals involving tainted crayons, toys, lumber, drywall and personal care products?

The lack of financial safeguards that one day could catch up the entire world in the collapse of a Potemkin village economic system?

Or how about earlier global epidemics such as SARS and other various forms of flu that leaked into the world from a medieval public health infrastructure and unconstrained and disgusting dietary habits – specifically, unregulated meat markets peddling civet cats, pangolins and the like?

However serious it may turn out to be, this flareup has given all of us, including Wall Street, a serious and painful wake-up call: that coronavirus and the resulting panics are what happens when a nation – seemingly inextricably – links its economy and entire way of life to a country whose system is completely inimical.

But also an opportunity to prove the coupling is extricable after all – by pressing, Hillary Clinton-style, the famous “reset” button, this time with China. Perhaps spelled right (however it’s rendered in Mandarin). And policy-wise, in an opposite, decidedly less accommodative direction.

Now that this frightening outbreak has captured our collective consciousness, the president should seize the opportunity to take his tough posture vis-à-vis the Chinese to a whole new level – and announce that for the sake of our economic wellbeing, national security, public health and consumer safety, America is indeed going to recast our relationship.

That we will progressively wean ourselves off the Middle Kingdom’s brutal, criminal dictatorship; its crooked, immoral, hazardous and larcenous business activities; its unhygienic practices; and its antagonistic rhetoric and actions.

That, until and unless China cleans up its act, we will promote and even mandate the shift of business and commerce to safer, saner, more reliable, less hostile and most important, more humane locations – including and especially the good old US of A.

In short, that America is going to stop lying down with depraved, despotic dogs and waking up fleeced — in every sense.

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at


  • I sued that expression on a Facebook post and a relative was offended. Go figure.

  • The Koreans used backtracking using cell phones to identify individuals who had come in contact with the infected. Recently Senator Frist discussed this on Maria Bartiramo’s show, but came under attack for the suggestion that this would be a major HIPA violation. He then said maybe it would be voluntary.

    Before AIDS, tracking back communicable diseases was the rule of the day. Now, we are in an economy wrecking shut down. I think that this can be done with minimal exposure of the infected’s identity. It it must be done soon (and in conjunction with the new high speed testing fromRoche) to be effective.

    Does Issues and Insight have an opinion on this, and can they add their clout to getting this concept more discussion?

  • The Trump administration needs to put in place a program to accelerate the return of plants and companies in China. Would propose meeting with a group of business reps. and advocate them using their unrepatriated offshore profits together with funds they are using to purchase their own stock to finance the move of production facilities in China back to US. Every confirmed dollar so invested would be given a 35% tax credit on their future Federal Corp Tax. Give them 24 months to execute. If the companies find this unacceptable then let them propose an alternative. Companies probably have close to $1 trillion of funds from these sources. The government spending $350 billion to cut the country’s trade deficit with China in half would be a massive win for the US. In addition, the administration should propose a Job Camp program, where trade and tech skills are taught. Goal would be to train 1-2 million workers. This is a very minimum proposal, but could be a place to start. China has declared full scale hostities against the US, and this current situation in China is the perfect opportunity to rectifiy 30 years of stupid trade policies.

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