Merriam-Webster definition of a fellow traveler:
: a person who sympathizes with and often furthers the ideals and program of an organized group (such as the Communist party) without membership in the group or regular participation in its activities
broadly: a sympathetic supporter of another’s cause
In political jargon, a useful idiot is a derogatory term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause’s goals, and who is cynically used by the cause’s leaders
The Soviet Union made great use of both fellow travelers and useful idiots. This article by John Gray in the British publication New Statesman goes into great detail about them. Fellow travelers willfully ignore the misdeeds of these authoritarian states while praising their successes.
Just like the former Soviet Union, China goes to great lengths to make use of fellow travelers and apologists. They also use their growing economic clout to discourage criticism of their regime, its policies, and its practices. One merely needs to look at how they forced the NBA to kow-tow to them over criticism of their actions in Hong Kong.
It appears now that they are using Democrat politicians like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and former Obama advisor Ben Rhodes to stifle criticism of their response to COVID-19 as the following tweets make clear.
We need to bring people together to fight Coronavirus.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 21, 2020
Blaming China may seem like good politics, but it doesn’t solve anything, or mitigate the Trump Administration’s failures.
Calling it the “Chinese virus” only breeds disunity, discrimination and division.
No other country on Earth calls it the China virus. Hard to overstate how dumb, racist and pointless this must look from abroad – like Trump’s entire presidency. Damage to US standing incalculable.— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) March 21, 2020
Given the overwhelming evidence that the Chinese Community Party and President Xi Jinping have done everything in their power to cover up their own complicity in the spread of COVID-19, the question remains whether Schiff and Rhodes are fellow travelers, useful idiots, or both.
UPDATE: The New York Times has an excellent interactive graphic showing the spread of COVID-19. It is entitled How the Virus Got Out and is worth watching.
Before the Chinese government imposed travel restrictions, it is estimated that 7 million people can and went from Wuhan which was the epicenter. Let me repeat – 7 million people left Wuhan after the first cases were discovered and thousands upon thousands were already infected.