William Jones: No Room For Geopolitics in The Battle Against Covid

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William Jones: No Room For Geopolitics in The Battle Against Covid

2021-08-16



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With the discovery at the beginning of 2020 that the world was facing a new, and deadly virus, this should have been the time – and the opportunity – for the world to mobilize as one to ward off what could become a deadly threat to mankind. We were not unacquainted with the danger of such a development. The SARS epidemic in 2002, and even the outbreak of AIDS in the 1980s, should have taught the world a  lesson, namely  that viruses would represent ongoing threats to humanity and that the world community should create the type of institutions that could effectively deal with such a threat. While the WHO has, to some extent, served that function, the extent of the present crisis has clearly shown that much more has got to be done to strengthen the global health system.


Instead of close collaboration between nations in dealing with this threat that does not recognize national borders, the virus outbreak led to greater divisions between nations and in fact, became a tool in a very insidious attempt by the Trump Administration to undermine the great strides made by China in its own development  and in its growing contribution to world development.


The outbreak in Wuhan was in fact met by a certain amount of schadenfreude among some elements of the Trump team. Eager to throw a “monkey wrench” into China’s development trajectory and its internationally lauded Belt and Road Initiative, the Trump Administration claimed that the virus had its origins in Wuhan, a claim that has been effectively discredited by the discovery of Covid antibodies in different parts of the world long before the outbreak in Wuhan. Some Trump Administration officials even mooted the possibility that the virus had its origins in work being done at the Wuhan Virology Institute, and had “leaked” out, or was purposely released for insidious reasons, a claim that also has been put to rest by the WHO investigative team, who visited the site,  as well as by foreign researchers who worked at the Institute at the time.


And when President Trump himself began to talk about the “China virus”, this provided the false claims that China was somehow behind the virus with the seal of Presidential approval, and many gullible citizens, enamored with this mercurial president, began to believe the lie.


President Trump’s initial reaction, on discovering cases of the virus in the U.S.,  was to shut off all travel to and from China, perhaps in the belief that the virus would be shut down at the border. But the virus was already here, as we later discovered, and perhaps for a longer time than anybody thought. But failure to follow through with the type of tough measures that China had instituted in shutting down an entire city, Wuhan, and an entire province, Hubei, President Trump initially, against the advice of his science advisers, said that the virus would disappear of itself. He refused to wear a mask or to institute a mask mandate, and strongly fought against restricting activities in public places. So the virus spread in the United States with little opposition before it became clear to the President that it was NOT  going away by itself. And while he finally set about mandating a crash program to develop a vaccine, this was solely aimed for domestic use.


China, on the other hand, which had also initiated a crash program to develop a vaccine, said from the beginning that this would be available to the entire world. And they have kept that commitment.


While the new Biden Administration , which took office at the beginning of 2021, was intent on dealing with the pandemic which had already affected several million Americans and led to the deaths of 100s of thousands of Americans, they also adopted Trump’s politicization of the virus. And in the face of China’s distribution of millions of vaccine doses world wide, the Biden Administration boasted that the U.S., not China, would become the main distributors of vaccines world-wide, working overtime in order to catch up, which they still have not done.


With whatever intentions the Biden Administration may have had in dealing with the global pandemic, they have not even gotten control over the situation in the United States. Strongly politically divided in the last election, much of the nation believes that accepting the need for prophylactic measures in fighting the virus would be a sell-out of President Trump’s program. So they refuse to wear masks or avoid crowds and even refuse to get vaccinated, while Trump himself is still there on the sidelines, goading them on.


So the attempt by the U.S. government and the Western media to claim that the United States has done more to fight the virus than any other country, is absolutely ludicrous. Take the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka’s “Fact Sheet”, for instance,:” Through the American people’s generosity and the U.S. government’s action, the United States continues to demonstrate global leadership in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Months into fighting this pandemic at home and abroad, the United States remains the largest single country donor to the response efforts globally, building on decades of leadership in life-saving health and humanitarian assistance.” It then lists all the money that they have allegedly distributed to developing countries for the purpose of fighting the virus. But no list of doses distributed. It seems that the Biden Administration simply began printing up money to try to fill the gap.


China, on the other hand, has delivered 770 million doses worldwide, and China’s Sinovac has signed contracts for 900 million doses with 20 countries. China has also contributed heavily to the international Covax program.  And now President Xi has said that China would deliver 2 billion additional doses to the world.


While China can effectively promise 2 billion vaccine doses for the world largely because it has the means for keeping the outbreak fairly under control domestically, the United States does not. And the strong resistance coming from conservative states loyal to Trump to any “draconian” measures to fight the virus, means that we will see major outbreaks in various parts of the country for some time to come. And it will probably take an even greater death toll before such measures can be imposed nation-wide, if then. The United States, unfortunately, therefore remains more part of the problem than part of the solution. And their  making so-called “vaccine diplomacy” a political football, and playing the “blame game” with China takes the world even further away from overcoming the pandemic.


The orientation has now got to be toward saving people’s lives and eliminating the virus globally. Countries must work together, not at odds with one another. And everything else must be subordinate to that fight. If we can accomplish that, we are well on our way to  achieving that community of common health for mankind, so warmly advocated by President Xi Jinping. If the world can be united in the quest to achieve such a global health community, perhaps countries can also begin to work together to deal with other issues that still divide us.



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