2 May 2020   Leave a comment

US President Trump’s desire to be re-elected has become a driving force behind US policy toward China. The strategy was noted by Politico: “The National Republican Senatorial Committee has sent campaigns a detailed, 57-page memo authored by a top Republican strategist advising GOP candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by aggressively attacking China.” The memo is explicit to the Republican faithful:

● China caused this pandemic by covering it up, lying, and hoarding the world’s supply of medical
equipment.

○ China is an adversary that has stolen millions of American jobs, sent fentanyl to the United States, and they send religious minorities to concentration camps.

● My opponent is soft on China, fails to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party, and can’t be trusted to take them on.

● I will stand up to China, bring our manufacturing jobs back home, and push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.

President Trump confirmed the strategy with this tweet: “Concast (@NBCNews) and Fake News @CNN are going out of their way to say GREAT things about China. They are Chinese puppets who want to do business there. They use USA airwaves to help China. The Enemy of the People! One CNN broadcaster, Jake Tapper pointed out the hypocrisy by reproducing many Trump Tweets that had praised China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

We should be clear that China did not handle the outbreak of the pandemic well. Sawn Yuan, writing in Wired, outlines the many mistakes, intentional or otherwise, that the Chinese made in late December and early January:

“‘The reality is that we could’ve been better off if China had been more forthcoming,’ Vice President Mike Pence told CNN in early April, when asked why the Trump administration had gotten off to such a late start in taking the virus seriously. The debate has become a strange and strained one, given that whatever China did or did not cover up, the US still squandered its chance to prepare for the inevitable even after Beijing’s warnings had become loud and clear.

“Moreover, it wasn’t the rest of the world that Beijing was most intent on keeping in the dark. Nowhere has China been more aggressive in its war for control of the coronavirus narrative than it has been at home. A vivid and human picture of that information war emerges if you examine all the stories and posts that have been wiped off of the Chinese internet since the outbreak began—which is exactly what I’ve been trying to do for the past few months.”

We should keep in mind that the Chinese failed to alert the world, primarily to keep its domestic population calm while it assessed the threat from the pandemic. That was a serious mistake, and one made by the US as well. The evidence is overwhelming that the government of the US was well aware of the pandemic threat and did little until the middle of March. The intelligence was reported by Scientific American, the New York Times, Vox, The Hill, The Guardian, and Business Insider.

We do not know what Mr. Trump intends to do, but various tactics have been identified in the media. The New York Times summarizes some of the actions planned by the Administration:

“Some top Trump administration officials are moving to take a more aggressive stand against China on economic, diplomatic and scientific issues at the heart of the relationship between the world’s two superpowers, further fraying ties that have reached their lowest point in decades.

“White House aides this week have prodded President Trump to issue an executive order that would block a government pension fund from investing in Chinese companies, officials said — a move that could upend capital flows across the Pacific. Mr. Trump announced on Friday that he was restricting the use of electrical equipment in the domestic grid system with links to “a foreign adversary” — an unspoken reference to China.

“The administration is cutting off grants that would help support virology laboratories in Wuhan, China, the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, and is looking into scientific collaborations undertaken there by the University of Texas…..

“China controls a vast supply of the masks and protective gear needed by American hospitals. And if China develops a vaccine first, it will wield a powerful card, one that will bolster its global standing and give it leverage over the health of hundreds of millions of Americans.”

We should be clear about what is happening. Mr. Trump is deliberately antagonizing a very powerful state and a potential scientific ally in the fight against the pandemic in order to divert attention from the mistakes of his Administration. There is no telling how the confrontation between the US and China may evolve, but there is no national interest of the US or China in this friction at this time. The attention of both states should be focused on marshaling their considerable abilities and wealth to find a vaccine for the virus. Hijacking the foreign policy of the US to seek re-election is reprehensible and contemptible.

The Chinese media outlet, Xinhua, has released a animated video, mocking the US response to the pandemic. It can be viewed here. The relationship between the US and China is quickly beginning a farce.

Posted May 2, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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