Editor’s note for Monday, May 18, 2020

Dear Access member,

Three things you need to know today:

1. China agrees that there should be an international investigation of its COVID-19 response…sort of. Chinese leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 today told WHO’s World Health Assembly that China “supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control.” In other words — no rush, and Washington, watch your back.

And of course, there is zero chance of Beijing letting any international investigator operate with any real independence in China. See our first story below for details.

2. Hong Kong’s once-famous rule of law may soon be a distant memory in Hong Kong if the government keeps up its assault on independent politicians, journalists, the courts, and the education system. See our second story for details on the past week’s attacks on the separation of powers.

3. The NBA has hired a Chinese national to lead its China operations, but state media says the American basketball league is still not forgiven for last year’s tweet by an NBA executive supporting the Hong Kong protests. See our fourth story below.

Our word of the day is global public good (全球公共产品 quánqiú gōnggòng chǎnpǐn), which Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 today promised is how any China-developed and -deployed COVID-19 vaccine would be treated. This contrasts somewhat with Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro’s assertion yesterday that China would “use that vaccine to profiteer and hold the world hostage.”

Also worth noting:

Peter Navarro, the fraudulent academic who also serves as Donald Trump’s top trade adviser, went on TV yesterday to escalate the Trump administration’s attacks on China’s handling of COVID-19. While there are many legitimate things to criticize about China’s initial response, and Beijing’s official timeline obscures many important details, Navarro appears not to understand the basic facts. For example, he says:

The virus was spawned in Wuhan province, patient zero was in November…The Chinese, behind the shield of the World Health Organization, for two months hid the virus from the world and then sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese on aircraft to Milan, New York and around the world to seed that.

One: Wuhan is not a province. It is hard to believe that any official is meticulously examining evidence about events in China when they cannot get basic facts like this right after it has been front-page news for nearly five months.

Two: While reporting has indicated that early cases did emerge as early as November, no reliable source has indicated that there was alarm about the new virus earlier than mid-December (paywall). China alerted WHO to the new virus on December 31, meaning it did not “hide” the virus from the world in January — though it did not confirm human-to-human transmission until January 20, so a three-week delay is a more reasonable talking point than two months.

Three: The virus was not “seeded” in the U.S. directly from China. As Bloomberg points out (porous paywall), genetic analysis has indicated that the New York epidemic of COVID-19, the worst in the U.S., was primarily driven by transmissions from Europe, not China.

(Thanks to my colleague Lucas for sitting through Navarro’s interview.)

On May 21, we’re hosting a webinar

Join us for Post-pandemic financial markets between the U.S. and China and hear from CEOs and experts as they tackle questions about COVID-19 and its impact on business and markets globally. Get $10 off with an Access members promo code: CEOACCESS21.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief