As more and more of Jim Rickards’s controversial claims about the COVID-19 pandemic are accepted, it’s time to turn our attention to the most important one for investors: the potential for nations to demand reparations from China.
It’s taken three years for people to realise that masks do not effectively stop the transmission of COVID-19 in practice. That lockdowns only delay the problem while imposing terrible costs, and therefore end up causing more harm than good. That schools should not have been shut down. And plenty more that is not yet accepted by those who control our online media, and which must, therefore, not be mentioned, but which the public has learned the hard way for themselves anyway.
Of course, all these conclusions are still debated by some. But those who disagree with Jim Rickards’s conclusions, reached back in 2020, now find themselves called ‘the sceptics’ and are trying to discredit the ‘opposing science’.
Perhaps most important of all, as Jim made clear by actually referring to ‘science’, in Jim’s view, the science was never in favour of such policies to a sufficient extent to impose them in the first place.
But all of Jim’s coverage was leading somewhere specific, which could impact your investments even more directly than the pandemic.
You see, one of the most heinous conspiracy theories of all was the idea that the virus came from a Chinese lab. Suggesting this would get you banned, silenced, discredited, and defunded…if you managed to get the claim out there at all.
But now, a recent US Senate report concluded that COVID-19 most likely came from a lab leak! Which, I presume, means we are finally allowed to mention the theory…I hope. Although the report did not offer a ‘definitive’ conclusion on the origin of the pandemic.
If the world settled on the conclusion that the pandemic’s source really was a Chinese lab, then that begged a rather important question: Would governments seek compensation from China for the pandemic?
No doubt it sounds laughable to you. But, as ever, Jim gave his analysis in a carefully justified way…
It’s clear that China could be found negligent on a long list of issues related to the pandemic. Letting the virus escape and its response to the virus, for example.
The recent US Government report suggests that China began developing COVID-19 vaccines before the official start of the outbreak, which implies more than negligence.
But are reparations for such issues realistic? The answer seems to be that you can’t ignore the issue, even if you think it isn’t realistic. Because the impact of trying to sue China for trillions of dollars in damages may well spark one heck of an economic conflict, if not worse, regardless.
But don’t let me get ahead of myself. What’s the evidence that a reparations claim would be plausible?
Take, for example, the topic of climate reparations. Last year, at COP27, in the luxury resort of Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, governments agreed to transfer over US$230 billion to poorer countries as ‘climate reparations’ for damage supposedly done by wealthy nations.
And the trend of reparations for slavery is getting plenty of political traction in the US.
Germany paid reparations to Israel for the Holocaust and Japan paid for several issues related to the Second World War. The US paid interned Japanese Americans too.
So we have precedent for nations getting sued for wrongdoing.
Even the mainstream media is onto the possibility of such payments, as well as alluding to the outcome. The UK Telegraph pondered the issue almost two years ago in an article: ‘“Wuhan lab leak” may be the biggest economic shock for decades’:
‘If intelligence services find a Chinese lab really did create Covid then global trade would collapse, triggering a huge financial crisis
‘Over the last few weeks, however, it [the Wuhan lab leak theory] has started to pick up some credibility. Intelligence agencies in the US and elsewhere are now investigating the possibility that Covid-19 was created in a Chinese laboratory, and leaked out either by accident or design, and for now President Biden is keeping an open mind on the issue.
‘Here is the important question for the markets, however, and one no one is thinking about yet: what if it is true? It would be the biggest shock to the global economy in decades. Why? Because governments would surely have no choice but to retaliate with sanctions and demands for full-scale reparations.
‘Chinese goods might suddenly be locked out of the global market, creating shortages and sparking a vicious cycle of inflation. Global trade would collapse. And the financial markets would crash as Chinese money was pulled out.
‘Even without full-scale retaliation, confidence in China would collapse. Paradoxically, it would cause far more damage than even Covid itself — and that makes it the biggest threat to economic stability right now.’
Since learning that sanctions and a trade war with one of your most important economic partners can boomerang rather badly, I’d say the Telegraph’s suppositions might be out of date. But what about reparations payments? That seems more likely.
What about actually enforcing such reparations? No doubt you can’t see China actually paying up for the trillions of dollars likely demanded of it…
Jim Rickards thought of that too. It’s almost an area of speciality for him, given his past careers in the CIA, teaching seminars in financial warfare at the US Army War College for the past seven years, negotiating the bailout of LTCM, and plenty more. And there are plenty of precedents for collecting payments from unwilling governments too. A famous situation involving the Argentine navy’s tall ship is the most amusing example.
Then there are the more recent example of the Russian sanctions, which involved freezing Russian assets in the US, including the Russian central bank’s US dollar reserves. If they can do that without any sort of international legal process…
According to Jim Rickards, the simple answer is that a failure to pay reparations would most likely result in a default on US Government debt held by China, or the seizure of Chinese assets in the US, in order to collect the money. In other words, suing China over COVID helps solve the issue of too much sovereign debt that the developed world owes China…
And how much of that debt was built up trying to help US and European industries to compete with China, where safety practices aren’t as sound or expensive…?
Of course, any attempt to pursue China for reparations would require one hell of a process. It’d take many years and lots of resources.
But all it takes to trigger the economic and financial chaos is the attempt to make such a claim. Because, as Australians know better than most, any attempt to hold China accountable for COVID triggers an economic and financial reprisal.
Once again, the issue boils down to Australia facing a geopolitical choice between its key economic partner in China and its security partner in the US.
Either way, as the geopolitical crisis over Ukraine demonstrated, any moves will move markets, creating winners and losers. I doubt any investor is prepared for the possibility of China being sued for reparations over COVID, though.
Until next time,
Editor, The Daily Reckoning Australia Weekend