As if times couldn’t get any stranger, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit against China on behalf of Missourians for the way China handled the coronavirus. While China is certainly in the wrong in the way it handled the virus, suing them will not help the state of Missouri. This misguided attempt at political posturing will do nothing but draw international ire, make Missouri look foolish and waste precious funds that could be spent in much more effective ways.
The lawsuit means nothing because it has no power. China is protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, established by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In short, China is not subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts because it is a foreign power, which makes the lawsuit leveled by Schmitt’s office powerless.
Schmitt, and by proxy Missouri, is seeking to argue that the Communist Party of China falls outside of the FSIA because it is a party and not the government. Therefore, it would not be covered. The issue is that China is a party state, therefore, the CPC is the state and would fall under the FSIA.
Schmitt most likely knows that the lawsuit will never come to fruition, and he didn’t care, because the lawsuit will accomplish what he wants it to. It will give him coverage and attention and will point the finger at a foreign power to give Missourians and Americans as a whole an enemy.
It seems that Republicans on a national and state scale are seeking to shift blame to China for the coronavirus pandemic. A bill was recently introduced by Republicans in Congress that would allow U.S. citizens to sue China for damages. While China certainly did not do enough to contain the virus, blaming China for all our issues is cowardly.
It was clear from the beginning that the U.S. had fallen behind in testing and taking necessary steps to limit the spread of the virus. Missouri as a whole has fallen well behind other states in taking action. Gov. Mike Parson preferred to not make any decisions rather than making the wrong one.
Parson was one of the last governors in the country to put his state in lockdown, and even then, Parson has been criticized for the “softness” of Missouri’s lockdown which includes numerous exemptions for nonessential businesses. Parson also included a process that would allow businesses to apply to ignore social distancing guidelines.
The frivolous lawsuit against China also comes at a time when Missouri is seeking to slash the state budget because of pandemic expenses. Parson recently announced $47 million in budget cuts, which include cuts to higher education and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Apparently, there is plenty of taxpayer money to waste on political posturing but not enough to maintain the already gutted higher education budget.
Missouri had over 6,000 cases and over 200 deaths as of April 22, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services. Thousands of Missourians are being laid off, numerous small businesses won’t make it through the virus, and minimum wage workers are being forced to brave unsafe work conditions to provide for Missourians. Sure, let’s waste time and taxpayer money on a lawsuit that will never work because we want to make a statement. It’s a pathetic excuse for crisis leadership.