By Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management
The world’s worst disaster in a century killed 7.1mm-12.7mm across the planet. The total continued rising. No one knew exactly when it would end, only that the poorest nations would bear the brunt. They always do. European and Asian countries lost more citizens than they had since WWII. The US lost more than in any war. Children fell behind. Economic costs spiraled, leaving each nation’s finances forever changed. Monetary and fiscal policy merged in the West. Inflation reappeared. Despots tightened their grip. America’s president was voted out.
In the emergency of the moment, the world’s leaders mostly kept their nations focused on dealing with the disaster. But as the crisis in the developed world subsided, focus turned to the origin of it all. The world’s leading biologists felt that the preliminary analysis lacked scientific rigor and appeared incomplete. To prevent a repeat of such tragedy, they insisted on doing what they are trained to do. And in this search for the truth, they had to seriously explore the possibility that the disaster was not of natural origin, but an accident.
Having suffered the consequences, people throughout the world rightly sought the truth. But the hunt for truth in epidemiology is a rather different matter than the search for truth in geopolitics. The former is infinitely cleaner and easier than the latter. And to compound that difficulty, the geopolitical consequences of this disaster having been a laboratory accident are so vast that it is difficult to quite imagine. Would nations hold China to account? If so, how? War reparations? How would international debts be treated? Equity? These barely scratch the surface.
Every person on the planet should hope the truth is the virus struck humanity naturally, unluckily (I sure do). Beijing certainly wants this to remain the explanation. They rebuked Australia for questioning it. So how hard will Western leaders press for a thorough investigation knowing that if it were to conclude a lab leak, it would require a political response that could turn the world upside down? And yet, if they do not press hard, how will Western governments retain their already diminished credibility when it comes to national security?