Kampmark, B. (2020). The coronavirus blame game: The emergence of pandemic lawfare. Belt & Road Initiative Quarterly, 1(3), 63-79.


In keeping with a historical tendency to name, and implicitly attribute blame for public health threats and emergencies, COVID-19 has become the “China Virus”. This has led to the emergence of what this paper describes as pandemic lawfare, primarily directed against the People’s Republic of China.  The staggering costs occasioned by public health lockdowns, restrictions on business and social activities have seen a proliferation of such calls to arms. Reconceptualising pandemics through the lens of legal liability can be seen to be a tactical measure framed around concepts of lawfare.  Doing so accords human and institutional blame to otherwise natural transmissions of a pathogen.  The practice of pandemic lawfare, through which public fora and institutions are used to attribute blame and seek compensation, promises to be a lasting legacy of the COVID-19 virus.  In doing so, it promises to challenge and undermine the principle of sovereign immunity accepted in international relations, resorting to a rule-based order of international health regulations.

Keywords: China; COVID-19; legal liability; pandemic lawfare