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Coronavirus: Tensions between US and China

Rayhan Ahmed Topader:

 

Trump’s trade wars alienated U.S. friends and foes alike when the international climate was relatively stable. Now, they are making it harder for world leaders and medical professionals to fight the urgent battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Specialists and political observers contend that when the virus first spread in Wuhan, the enormity of the issue was not related by China to the outside world. Well, let me ask this question: if the virus was first noticed in the USA or France or any other country, would the respective authority have rung the warning bell at the early stage or would they have taken the time to try to contain it before it became bigger? To make the matter easy to understand, let’s come to personal tribulations which affect each one of us. Every man and woman has to face life’s trials but unless the obstacles are enormous no one discusses them in public or goes out to seek help from others. So, it’s safe to speculate that when the virus first spread, China did not foresee that this virus would soon turn out to be the cause of a global impasse. Even in January of the running year, the news of 56 deaths in Wuhan from a mysterious ailment was reported in the Time magazine in a small lower side corner. This means thatmerely four months ago, the virus was not thought to be a global threat. So, from a practical angle, blaming China for delay is perhaps not right because any other country would have tried to tackle it by itself first before creating a regional and global panic.But what China should do is help in finding out the true source of the virus.

In a time of crisis, speculations, truths and semi truths create a confusion, making the act of finding the fact really daunting. The common understanding is that the virus came from the consumption of bat meat. But the Chinese have always had an appetite for all sorts of rather odd food items which may be nauseating to others. In fact, the main market for pangolin, turtles and other endangered animals is China where exotic animals have been consumed for centuries as medicine and, for enhancing the libido. Go to remote jungles of Africa and poachers of rhinos who cut off the horns will confess that their main buyers are from China. So, even if we should not blame China without irrefutable evidence that they are responsible for Corona, they must take blame for the motivating factor behind a wide variety of highly unethical and immoral trades across the globe. Since Chinese eateries everywhere have often known to serve unusual items, the time has come for them to limit their dishes to conventional food items. In short: discard all the delicacies and serve normal food!

Vilifying China is Trump’s election slogan:

With the elections not too far away and plenty of Americans showing open contempt for the current administration, Trump’s best bet is to whip up anti-Chinese rhetoric in his country and use it during the elections. The USA has been one of the hardest hit which is an indication that even the most developed country in the world was taken by surprise. This will certainly not send a positive message about the government to the electorate.

The theory that the current administration is upping the belligerence against China to distract from the crisis in the country seems to have some credence.The red herring used by the Trump administration appears to be the anti-China card. But let’s look at the wider picture of lambasting China. Currently, China is the biggest manufacturer and exporter of Ready Made Garments, and, if someone manages to create an anti China sentiment, then the factories plus the workers in China will face jeopardy, right? However, since China has already contained the virus and has opened up Wuhan, the narrative against using Chinese made products may fizzle out in the end. The otheraccusation blames China for manufacturing the virus and being unaware of its leakage. Now this is a very grey area because no one knows what goes on in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Maybe, the establishment is being unnecessarily pulled into a baseless conspiracy theory but as China had always adopted a cloak and dagger approach to all outside questions and concerns, there is every reason to doubt the veracity of what China says about the institute. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that China did not impose any pressure on the Uighurs and the camps were for instilling state approved ideologies through fun, dance and games. If these camps were so innocuous then there was no reason for the Chinese authorities to constantly spy on foreign journalists and stringently monitor their interactions with the general people.

Common sense states that restrictions are imposed on the media when there is something to conceal, something diabolical which is contrary to what is being related to the world. Countries which try to adopt a hide and seek strategy in everything have a credibility problem and the Chinese government’s dealing with the Uighurs seems to have too many question marks. In recent weeks, the US has doubled down on blaming China for the spread of the virus, accusing it of withholding important information especially in the critical early stages of the outbreak and questioning its death toll. US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have also claimed, without providing evidence, that the virus originated from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported last December. Beijing has pushed back at the claims, accusing the Trump administration of deflecting blame for its own failure to contain the virus within the US and smearing China to bolster Trump’s reelection chances. A senior Chinese government official challenged President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, accusing him of wasting weeks after the threat posed by the virus first became apparent. In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News conducted in Mandarin, Executive Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng also hit back at the politicization of the virus. Le, a rising star within China’s political establishment, rejected claims that the country had covered up the initial outbreak or that it should be held financially liable for COVID-19.

Instead, he termed the virus a natural disaster and called for greater cooperation and an end to accusations. On Jan. 23 when Wuhan went under lockdown, the United States reported only one confirmed case, but on March 13 when President Trump announced a national emergency, the United States reported over 1,600 confirmed cases,” Le said, referring to the city in China’s Hubei province where the virus is believed to have emerged. In this interval of 50 days, what was the U.S. government doing? Where have those 50 days gone?” said Le, who was born on China’s industrial east coast and began his diplomatic career in what was then the Soviet Union, and is fluent in Russian. The world seeks answers to COVID19 and its origins. China has a responsibility to cooperate,” he wrote, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Pompeo has previously stated that Beijing will pay a price for its actions, while often adding he didn’t yet know what form that would take. China has been hounded by questions over missteps in its initial response to contain the virus. So far, more than 200,000 people globally have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data.Trump has heaped criticism on Beijing since the outbreak of the pandemic, at times questioning the accuracy of its official death toll and saying he was looking into speculation that the infection originated in a Wuhan laboratory a possibility that Chinese officials have repeatedly rejected.

 

Writer and Columnist

raihan567@yahoo.com