Tuesday, April 21, 2020 2:53 pm
By Emmanuel Alegba
In recent times, the trade war initiated by the Trump administration against China has raised tensions to new heights with even worse deterioration in relations as a result of the US sanctions on the telecommunication giant Huawei and its recent stance on Covid-19. The US and China have been locked in an economic and military tussle since 2012 due to Barack Obama’s East Asia Strategy, popularly known as the “Pivot to Asia Strategy”. A report by the Brookings Institute stated that the reactions to the pivot strategy were mixed, as “different Asian states responded to American rebalancing in different ways.” As for China, it was met with a strong perception that all of these are part of US China containment policy.
President Trump has accussed China of being responsible for the spread of the virus and has referred to it as the Chinese Virus. US leadership have also pushed several world leaders to support a name change from Covid-19 to Chinese virus. He has also made claims of China withholding information about the virus as well as lying to the world about its severity with the backing and knowledge of the World Health organisation. The US leadership has also stated their willingness ininvestigating whether the source of the virus may have come from a lab in Wuhan due to carelessness. Although, it is important to take allegations like these very serious, but making such allegations with little or no evidence in the middle of a fight against a global pandemic will not help the world’s unity in battling this strange enemy.
November 10, 2015, Science Daily published a paper on a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, led by Ralph Baric. This group of researchers discovered a new bat SARS-like virus that could jump directly from its bat hosts to humans without mutation. The author, Baric claimed in the past “Studies have predicted the existence of nearly 5,000 coronaviruses in bat populations and some of these have the potential to emerge as human pathogens”. At the time, the findings were supposed to provide an opportunity to develop drugs and vaccines for coronaviruses before they emerge from animals to cause a human epidemic, since the focus was not about if there will be an outbreak of one of these coronaviruses but rather when and how prepared we will be to address it. It’s now obvious this report was not acted upon or taken serious by the US.
Also the Obama administration placed a moratorium on all gain-of-function research in 2013 due to safety concerns about the risk of virus escaping from the lab. Although, Baric’s study on the SHC014-chimeric coronavirus began before the moratorium was announced, and was allowed to conclude his work, other research that would have benefited the US from such study of coronavirus were shutdown making the US less prepared for a coronavirus pandemic.
While it is fair to commend the Trump administration for putting in place a travel ban from China in late January, which was political challenged by the opposition, they also failed to properly anticipate the likelihood of the virus trajectory getting out of control. The Trump administration and the western mainstream media downplayed the severity of the virus even after human to human transmission was established scientifically and intensified pressure on China by claiming China’s actions of the use of technology in contact tracing, drone use, facial recognition and the Hubei province lockdown as overly aggressive and ineffective in quelling the outbreak. The Los Angeles Times reinforced the narrative by mocking President Xi’s efforts to rally Chinese citizens as “shoddy propaganda. The Economist magazine on their part depicted China as a global disease infecting the planet—an authoritarian plague that threatened the free world more than any pandemic. At this point the US had already made up its mind that the virus was a Chinese attack from abroad, politicians were now seeing China as the greatest threat to Us world power and most government officials were already proposing the consequences China must face and didn’t give a thought about the lessons they could learn from China’s methods that was proving to be successful.
It is also important to note that the CDC was informed officially on the 3rd of January, 2020, about a pneumonia causing virus after the WHO was informed on the 31st of December, 2019. The CDC has since worked with Chinese virologists/epidemiologists in sequencing the genome of the virus. On January 8, 2020, the People’s Daily, China, reported experts had identified the previously unidentified pneumonia in Wuhan as a new type of Coronavirus. The first human to human transmission case was suspected on the 14th of January, 2020, after the wife of the first casualty to Covid-19 tested positive. China declared Wuhan lockdown on the 23rd of January followed by WHO declaring a worldwide emergency on the 30th of January, but the world leaders were too slow to reach a decision due to fears of economic collapse and political backlash at the expense of their citizen’s safety. As at March 15, 2020, the New York governor in a televised interview downplayed the effect of the virus and in Florida thousands were flocking to Beaches. The US president on his own part ignored warnings about the devastating impact of Covid-19, White house memos have revealed.
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) commended the Chinese government for its actions in helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus to other countries. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom has stated he’s very impressed and encouraged by president Xi’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak. Dr. Tedros’sassistant, Dr. Bruce Aylward, who also visited China, in a statement said “What I saw was a tremendous sense of responsibility, and of duty, to protect their families, their communities, and even the world, from this disease,” He also said in a televised interview “I left with such a deep sense of admiration for the people of Wuhan and for Chinese society in general.” This move by the WHO leadership has not only angered some countries and its leadership, but has been seen as Chinese control over the WHO and its narratives. The US, the greatest country in the world, just can’t admit that China succeeded in dealing with the Covid-19 threat better than America. They failed to prepare even when China bought the world reasonable amount of time.
The Chinese are not perfect and while there are concerns and questions that need to be answered, we must come together as the human race to fight this common enemy and leave the blame game for later. Scientist have predicted there could be a second wave, hence we need all hands on deck to tackle this pandemic as a united front.
-Emmanuel Alegba is a CAD Designer /Database Administrator in the private sector. A graduate of Delta State University, Abraka