By: William Jones Source: CGTN Published: 2020-03-22
The sudden shift by President Trump, who had previously carefully avoided falling into the dangerous game of blaming China for the dangerous coronavirus outbreak, by making it a point to repeatedly characterize it as "the Chinese virus" has added grist to the mill of his enemies in the media, but has also alarmed people who supported his presidency. More seriously, by falling into this trap and creating greater animosity between China and the U.S., he is also preventing the necessary international cooperation which will be critical in the fight against COVID-19 – and in saving American lives.
Anyone who has watched Trump's daily briefings with the White House coronavirus task force he set up, can clearly see that the U.S. views this more and more as a zero-sum game with China, which through diligent efforts and the nation coming together, had succeeded in getting to a point where there are no, or very few, new incidents of the virus.
As a result, China is gearing up their own industry and medical production capabilities to help other nations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in "their" fight against the COVID-19.
But judging from the generous offer of Alibaba's Jack Ma of 500,000 test kits and a million masks, which doesn't seem to have merited a response from the administration, they prefer not to accept any assistance from a country that they labeled as their chief "rival." Nor did they accept the early offer of test kits from the WHO at an early stage of the game.
According to Dr. Deborah Birx, the test kits offered by the WHO were not up to the quality required in the U.S. But behind these rather flimsy arguments, and judging from the president's own stance, it seems that everything simply has to be "Made in America." This, of course, would be quite a boon politically for the president when all is over. But the question is: Can we produce everything we need? And quickly enough to save thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives?
Judging from our present condition , that may not be the case. The epidemic is expanding rapidly, more rapidly than anyone thought. We are still far below what we need in the form of test kits, medical masks and equipment, and in particular, in the all-important ventilators.
Already now, hospitals in some of the most afflicted areas, in New York and in the state of Washington, are faced with the situation of triaging patients and postponing serious treatment for cancer patients and others until the crisis is over risking their lives as well. As the epidemic begins to hit some of our rural areas, the situation is even more critical as there has been a decades-long take-down of the rural hospital system, which could be totally swamped.
But the shortage of testing equipment and facilities is still met with an Administration mantra that only those who show symptoms should be tested, when we know that for every one or two people who show the symptoms there are seven or eight people still carrying the disease – and possibly spreading it.
What the Chinese example has shown, followed successfully by South Korea and now hopefully by Italy, is that conquering this virus will require a great deal of general testing to really determine how many people have the disease, and quarantining them somewhat more rigorously than has been the case.
So much time has been lost. The claim is made that China didn't tell us early enough how serious this was. And yet we had well over a month to see what was happening in Wuhan and Hubei, how it was being dealt with, and how it succeeded. But there was a sense here that this was China's problem, not ours. And with some of the more virulent China-bashers, there was probably even a bit of schadenfreude.
But now it's our problem. And if we try to go it alone, or even use this as part of our "rivalry" with China, we will lose more lives. And maybe at the end of the battle (and this epidemic will also pass), the president may be standing there triumphantly claiming that we did it solely "on our own steam."
But the losses entailed by refusing assistance will bear a silent witness to the folly of such petty one-upmanship. If we are to weather this crisis against the COVID-19, which has no nationality, we must work in solidarity and cooperation with the other nations of the world, including China, which has the greatest experience in dealing with it, to bring this threat quickly to heel.
William Jones is the Washington bureau chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.