What Would We Do Without Experts?


It’s getting harder to believe Dr. Anthony Fauci’s claim that his government agency never funded “gain-of-function” research to engineer new viruses at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. Meanwhile, Thursday brings a timely reminder of who ultimately oversees that lab in Wuhan.

It’s the Chinese Communist Party, which this week celebrates its 100th anniversary. Lowlights along the way include the killing of tens of millions of Chinese citizens in the 1950s and ’60s. The party’s current governance is also not without its flaws.

The Journal’s James Areddy writes:

A former Chinese Communist Party academic, now a critic of the regime, is urging the U.S. to abandon “naive” hopes to engage with Beijing, while warning that the country’s leadership is more fragile than it appears.

In a forthcoming paper timed to the party’s centennial Thursday, Cai Xia, a former professor at Beijing’s Central Party School, says that four decades of U.S. bridge-building has merely entrenched a Chinese leadership inherently hostile to the U.S. And under President Xi Jinping, China no longer finds engagement useful, Ms. Cai wrote.

“Wishful thinking about ‘engagement’ must be replaced by hardheaded defensive measures to protect the United States from the CCP’s aggression—while bringing offensive pressures to bear on it, as the Chinese Communist Party is much more fragile than Americans assume,” Ms. Cai wrote. Her 28-page paper is slated for publication this week by the Hoover Institution, a conservative-leaning think tank at Stanford University.

A growing roster of Western politicians and analysts has concluded that U.S. diplomacy with China hasn’t paid dividends. But such views are rarely expressed publicly by sources as highly placed as Ms. Cai was just a short time ago…

She wrote that Washington should be “prepared for the possible sudden disintegration” of the party. While she alleged deep divisions among its 92 million members, she didn’t offer recent evidence of a split with Mr. Xi aside from writing that many party members and elites in society “accept and approve of the American democratic system and freedom as universal values.”

On the other side of the world, it seems that many Americans who cherish their freedom do not approve of unelected elites in government. This column will offer its usual disclaimer that public opinion research is not a hard science, but if new findings from Scott Rasmussen are even close to accurate, they are highly compelling:

In a poll last week, I asked 1,200 Registered Voters what should be done when government experts and intellectuals recommended a policy that voters strongly opposed. Just 19% say that the government should follow the policy recommended by experts and intellectuals. Sixty-one percent (61%) took the opposite view… just 25% of voters believe government experts make policy recommendations based primarily on their professional expertise. A solid majority—55%– believe the policy recommendations made by experts are based upon the experts’ own political preferences…

A vivid current example of this distrust can be found in the possibility that the coronavirus was created in a Wuhan, China laboratory. Not only do most voters think that’s likely, 57% think it’s likely that U.S. government officials actively tried to cover-up the lab-leak theory.

Having grown up in a world skeptical of experts promoting their own agendas, none of this surprised me. But one result from last week’s poll was truly shocking.

I asked voters whether certain activities were a major threat to democracy in the United States. One of the options was “letting government bureaucrats set rules without approval of Congress or voters.” Fifty-five percent (55%) said that practice was, in fact, a major threat. That view is shared by 73% of Republicans, 43% of Democrats, and 40% of Independents.

To put that into perspective, a smaller number (45%) believe the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol was a major threat to democracy.

Speaking of doubting the federal experts, this week also brings a new report that will do nothing to enhance the credibility of perhaps the world’s most famous government expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.