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NR Is Here to Speak Truth to China

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks to the lectern to deliver his speech during the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, October 18, 2017. (China Daily via Reuters)
We rely on the support of readers like you to maintain this level of independence.

I’m the “senior political correspondent” at National Review, which is what they call a political correspondent who gets old. I’m asking for your support.

One of the many serious journalistic advantages of working at National Review is that when some weird virus seemed to come out of nowhere on the other side of the world, throwing the entire globe into chaos, I was free to dive in and uncover as much information as I could, just because I wanted to know about it and our readers wanted to know, too.

In my morning newsletter, which usually was mostly about day-to-day politics, I was free to suddenly spend a lot of time on examining viruses and treatments — and translating medical and scientific journals into plain English. And the entire time, no one at National Review ever told me, “Stay in your lane.” No one told me I shouldn’t bother trying to cover all of these complicated topics, given that, after all, I’m not regularly a science or medical reporter. And I never had to worry that anything I wrote might irk the Chinese government and jeopardize our parent company’s access to the Chinese market.

So I was free to write, back on January 30, 2020,

Authoritarian regimes don’t like admitting mistakes, don’t like admitting that problems are really bad, and don’t like admitting that they need help from outsiders. . . . Probably the single most frightening aspect is the possibility that either the Chinese government is still guessing at how far the virus has spread, or that they’re not being honest about the risk.

And I could point out that the lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing suggested the threat was much worse than the Chinese government was admitting on February 11, and warn that the virus posed a “severe and increasing threat” on February 14. And I could warn people on March 9, “It’s probably time for everyone to start preparing for coronavirus to be extremely disruptive.” And I had the complete editorial freedom to lay out a comprehensive timeline of the Chinese government’s lies on March 23.

Significantly, in what turned out to be one of the most-read articles I’ve ever written, on April 3, I was free to go way out on a limb with an unbelievably long article going through what seemed like a nutty YouTube video contending that the whole pandemic started with a lab leak, and seeing what could be verified — and finding that, holy smokes, a whole bunch of the allegations in that video could be verified. There really were pre-pandemic job postings of the Wuhan Institute of Virology declaring that “a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified,” and there really was a suddenly withdrawn research paper from a Chinese doctor asserting that the evidence pointed to a lab accident, not a wet market, and there really were Chinese state-television documentaries showing researchers in caves capturing virus-shedding bats with exposed skin.

And you and I have spent most of the past year and a half watching almost everyone else in the national media world play catch-up.

You may have noticed that a lot of big businesses are extremely reluctant to utter a critical word about China. John Cena and LeBron James may look tough, and the Disney corporation may look big and powerful, but when their future revenues from the Chinese market are threatened, suddenly they’re as docile as sleepy kittens.

National Review is not a big business. That’s good news morally and journalistically. That’s bad news financially. We’re not making millions on Rich Lowry bobble-head dolls and Ramesh Ponnuru T-shirts on store shelves in Shenzhen and Guangzhou. There is no Kevin Williamson–themed amusement park planned to begin construction outside Shanghai. The action-packed franchise film Charlie Cooke’s Gun Collection isn’t supposed to arrive in Chinese theaters this fall.

We don’t have an “Uncle Rupert.” You want to know who our deep-pocketed benefactor is? You see that person every morning when you look in the mirror.

So if you appreciate what my colleagues and NR have been able to do — throughout this pandemic and year in, year out — please give what you can. And as always, thank you for your support.

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