When confronted by problems they cannot solve, people everywhere tend to find someone to blame. ‘The blame game’ is the default technique to shift responsibility for fixing problems by blaming those deemed to have caused the problem in the first place. At least since biblical times, the blame game has been a favoured way of dealing with problems – identify a scapegoat, then send it off into the desert to expiate the sins of the community that brought down the wrath of God and His punishment. Besides scapegoating and finger pointing, the rules of the blame game give expression to another common practice – the creation of binaries that identify agency as good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral. The scapegoat, of course, is always bad, wrong and immoral.
The blame game may well make its players feel vindicated and provide an engrossing distraction to the significantly more difficult task of problem solving, especially when those problems are ‘wicked’, revealing systemic breakdowns as contributors to contagion. Demonising the Chinese Communist Party and President Xi certainly externalises the COVID-19 problem, but it does not resolve it.