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US is making virus a global political football

By Donald Ramotar | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-08-30 14:46
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The COVID-19 origins-tracing. [Photo/IC]

At the beginning of 2020 the Chinese authorities announced to the world that they had detected a virus that was attacking the respiratory system of people and was killing them in Wuhan city of China. The need to alert the world was because of the fact that the virus spreading in the air and therefore, in the highly interconnected world we live in today, was likely to spread the world over.

In order to battle the spread of the disease China immediately locked down Wuhan.

That proved to be a very effective way of fighting the virus.

Inevitably the disease began spreading. South Korea was attacked early and shortly afterwards Europe began to be affected.

People started dying. The World Health Organization sprang into action and sought to give leadership in the world. At first the question was how this condition should be treated. Many drugs were tried and many were also discarded. Fear and frustration stalked all lands. A big effort began in many countries to develop a vaccine to protect the masses.

In the meantime two views emerged in the United States. On the one hand the scientists were urging that the situation be taken seriously. They urged that immediate preparations be made to deal with the outbreak. They warned of serious consequence of not taking immediate steps.

On the other hand the executive branch, led by Donald Trump, felt that the issue was being exaggerated. Moreover, the Trump administration and President Trump in particular expressed some overconfidence. After all the US was the most powerful country in the world and it would be able to wipe out the virus in no time should it reach the US. This was the sentiment up to early March 2020 in the US.

Apart from some display of arrogance on the part of Trump and some in his administration that behavior became a defense the government due to its earlier actions in preparing or not preparing the US for such eventualities.

US experts, like experts in other developed countries, had long been talking about an event such as the COVID-19 attack. This was their summing up of the world experience and the many pandemics that had visited us throughout history. Only a hundred years ago the "Spanish Flu" had killed millions in the world. Scientists warned that another such event was almost inevitable.

Based on that conclusion, scientists have been warning and urging governments to take precaution and to prepare for such an eventuality. After all mankind's actions were rapidly changing the world's environment which was making a pandemic a most likely outcome.

The George Bush administration had taken this issue very seriously. The US government under Bush established a task force/think tank of scientists to advise government and guide the government's preparatory actions.

President Obama, who replaced Bush, maintained the organization and ensured that it was well equipped and funded. Those presidents took the warnings seriously and had put an organization in place to deal with such an eventuality. They quite rightly took guidance from the scientists.

Enter Donald Trump. On the assumption that he wanted to cut out unnecessary expenditure, Trump disbanded the group that was preparing for any type of pandemic. America became one of the most ill-prepared developed countries for a pandemic. This was an extremely short-sighted decision.

Therefore, when COVID-19 first made its appearance Trump began to play down and even trivialize the real dangers that it posed. He himself is on record as saying that it would just disappear, adding that it was nothing to be concerned about.

He was even insulting to the WHO and the efforts it was making. He developed great hostility to that organization and pulled the US out of that UN body and removed America's financial contribution to it. That was a very serious blow to the world's response to COVID-19.

He began to show much impatience with his own scientists who were urging that this matter be taken seriously. They recommended wearing masks and even lockdown. Many of the technical personnel were removed from their posts because they showed disagreement with Trump. He was often insulting to many of the leading scientists in that field like Fauci whose position became very uncomfortable. It was only Fauci's high sense of responsibility that kept him from resigning.

Trump himself refused to wear a mask and even organized many public meetings. Most people at those meetings were not wearing masks and social distancing proposed by the experts was disregarded. Therefore, the commander-in-chief became the chief spreader of the disease.

This situation, led to political consequences. Trump began to lose popularity at the time when the US was going toward a presidential election. He therefore had to find another scapegoat to blame.

He began pointing accusing fingers at China. In this exercise he had the full support of the US media. The media in the US seems to be programmed against some countries, China being the foremost. The chorus was that China was to be blamed. To use the situation to politically attack China they began to accuse China of manufacturing the virus. All of this was to divert the public's attention from the great folly of disbanding the organization that was established to deal with the issue.

In the meantime the WHO organized a high-level team to investigate the origin of the virus. This group, made up of highly respected scientists, spent 28 days in China working intensely on the matter.

Their conclusion was that it was very unlikely that the virus could have been created in a lab. The technical challenges for that appear to have been too great a challenge. The strong evidence was that it was transmitted from animal to human. Most likely from bats which are known to be carriers of covidvirus.

One would have thought that that would have been the end of the matter. However, that was not to be. The issue was turned into a political one to feed the anti-Chinese sentiments that have been created by the media in the United States for some time. The media played a big role in propagating this China falsehood.

They had considerable assistance first from Donald Trump who coined the term "China Virus".

With the change of government in the United States one would have thought that the matter would have come to an end. After all Joe Biden advocated taking the advice of the scientists during the elections campaign. He strongly attacked Trump handling of the COVID crisis and his blatant disregard for science. He did make considerable political mileage on Trump's anti-science stance and that was probably the main reason that Biden got elected.

On taking power, Biden did a great job in getting the vaccines, whose appearance coincided with the victory of the Democratic Party, into the arms of its citizens. His aggressive actions helped to slow down the spread of the virus considerably. He rightly listened to the experts and was guided by them.

However, Biden has also shown his anti-China attitude on assuming office. Indeed, in many areas on the international scene we see no difference between Biden and Trump.

Biden is probably more anti-Chinese than Donald Trump. He has increased tensions in the South China Sea and has intensified anti-Chinese campaign. He has even gone further than Trump in reversing an old US policy on China/Taiwan sovereignty issue. He made no secret of his stance which is to stop China's ascendency in every sphere of social life.

The US is now even going so far as to using its influence to force smaller countries to recognize Taiwan. This is raising tensions since China sees this as a sovereign issue and is not brooking any interference.

The political nature of the blame China was shown at the G7 meeting which took place shortly after Biden's elections. At this meeting he took a very strong anti-China stance. He even advocated that the G7 and NATO alliance countries create an alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative. What is significant about this is that the main objective was not to help poor countries, but to stop China's influence in the world.

This too is governing his China policy on the COVID-19 origins.

Despite having a scientific analysis and conclusion from the WHO sponsored team, which stated that it was unlikely that the virus originated in a lab, Biden ordered his intelligence agency, mainly the CIA, to launch its own investigation.

It is clear that Biden is looking for some cover to blame China. Having not gotten it from the WHO he turned to the CIA. He seems to have hoped that the US intelligence community would come up with some "justification" to continue criticizing China.

After all it is the US intelligence community that justified Bush's invasion of Iraq, with 100 percent false information. This was not a case where it misled Bush, but where it helped him to make a false case to invade Iraq.

All of this is occurring because of the phenomenal and social economic progress that China has made over the last four decades. The People's Republic of China has become an alternative source of finances for developing countries. It has thus managed to break the monopoly of the World Bank and Western sources of finance. In doing so developing nations have a greater degree of freedom.

An example of the growing independence and confidence of developing leaders was seen in a recent interview between Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados with the BBC. The BBC interviewer was stopped in her tracks by the firm reply she got when she asked about Barbados and the Caribbean relations with China. It was a short response.

The constant attacks on China have forced it to respond. In doing so it has unearthed much information which shows that the virus may not have started in the Wuhan area first. It even raised questions on the work of labs in the US suggesting leaks could have emanated from them. Those arguments are also very strong.

All of this is taking place because of an irrational fear of China's progress by the US.

It is therefore a great pity that instead of uniting in the face of a common danger, the world has become more divided than ever.

The need for global cooperation has never been stronger than now. The US has shown that it has great possibilities in defeating the pandemic as we see since the new administration took power. At the same time China's contribution to this cause has been second to none. It's approach has helped it to recover quickly from the effects of the COVID and is having positive economic growth.

Instead of making the COVID-19 an international political football to be kicked around in the mad haste to stymie the economic growth of the China, we should seek total cooperation to end this deadly disease. Biden and the corporate media should stop the blame game, stop dividing countries and people we all need to get past this crisis in the world.

If China and America work together and take the lead in fighting COVID-19 together the whole world would be better for it and the sooner we would be free of the pandemic.

The author is the former President of Guyana.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

If you have a specific expertise, or would like to share your thought about our stories, then send us your writings at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.

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