Amidst the outbreak of a deadly virus, we have witnessed a remarkable show of unity amongst our nation’s political leaders. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised Trump’s efforts on the crisis and called him “creative and very energetic.” Liberal Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar referred to Trump’s current leadership as, “incredible and the right response in this critical time.” This fact is made all the more fascinating due to its timely juxtaposition with January’s height of political division, accented by the conclusion of the impeachment proceedings of President Trump. 

Today, we have been driven to renewed societal solidarity, the likes of which we have only seen when facing a common enemy, in this case we have an almost invisible one. However, the confrontation over the coronavirus will only truly begin once we defeat this disease. The origins of the virus and China’s culpability in covering it up during its initial stages of transmission and the state’s actions during the crisis present the case for China being the adversary that unites Americans against a common enemy moving forward.

Pew Research recently published a survey which highlighted that 91% of Americans believe there is a very strong or strong conflict between Republicans and Democrats, the highest rate that has been recorded. When the Center first asked the question in 2012, only 47% of Americans saw very strong conflict, while today the number stands at 71%.

This level of political polarization has risen to new heights since the fall of the Soviet Union. Much has been written about how this former common ideological enemy set the bounds for our political infighting and as a dark cloud casts a far-reaching shadow, it served as a permanent reminder that there were larger issues than the petty domestic political squabbling of the moment.

It was in this ideological adversary that we found most clearly who we were as a nation, more specifically by recognizing what we were not. The Stalinist legacy of a country built on totalitarian communist rule stood in stark contrast with the American consensus. Today, Beijing and Washington have already begun to wage ideological proxy wars in unorthodox ways, namely through economic investments in emerging nations and confrontations over spheres of influence. The need now is to bring these proxy battles into the light, and recognize this conflict for what it is: a new Cold War.

Some reports now point to a coronavirus outbreak that would have been known by the Chinese government as early as October. The state’s clearly documented censorship of doctors and media from discussing this virus, and prevention of world health officials from gaining access early on may ultimately have cost thousands of lives. The government’s ongoing duplicity during the spread of the virus and the willingness of leading Chinese Communist party officials to spread disinformation regarding the virus’ origins showcase how the country’s leaders have a reckless disregard for both the truth and human life.

Never before has Chinese communism been presented in such a stark contrast with the American idea. Where we promote transparency, they crush it. Where we defend human rights, they violate them. Where we defend the sovereignty of other nations, they attempt to stifle it. We must finally publicly recognize that the inherent foundations of the current Chinese communist leadership run too afoul of the values that we claim to hold dear for both states to continue to exist simultaneously in the same form.

No longer can the Chinese government be allowed to place millions of Uighur Muslims in camps, to suppress religious practice across the nation, to censor and arrest political dissidents, and to use heavy-handed tactics to place pressure on surrounding countries, without accountability. China is the adversary we need, to unite our nation under a common cause and give us the chance to push back against a foreign power that draws its strength through illegitimate processes.

No matter how this pandemic comes to an end, one thing is for certain: the world has been fundamentally changed. Out of the death of this virus must come a reinvigorated sense of American community, highlighted and shaped by a recognition of what we are not. 

And, what we are not has best been openly displayed by the corrupt totalitarian regime which allowed this virus to first spread, while offering deceit and lies to the rest of the world that stood so ready to help and support it in a time of crisis. 

In the 6th Century BC, Lao Tsu wrote that, “[a] great nation is like a great man…He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.” The Chinese communist party is as a shadow to the American ideal, a dark corruption of our commitment to human rights and personal freedom. In this corruption we ought to recognize our adversary for the coming decades.

This appeared in Human Events on April 2, 2020.