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Futile attempt to deflect domestic pressure: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-03-18 02:44
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A global crisis such as the current pandemic is not the time for political point-scoring at home, particularly when it is done by pandering to racist sentiment among the public, rather it should be a time for nations to come together to fight a common threat.

But as is its wont, the United States administration is trying to divert attention from its own shortcomings by making China the scapegoat for the US' current troubles.

Hopping around like a flea on a hot griddle looking for someone to blame for his administration's belated and sloppy response to the pandemic, the US president called the novel coronavirus the "Chinese virus" in a tweet. In doing so, he sought to conflate cause with effect. Although the outbreak of the virus was first spotted in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, and it is thought to have been transmitted from animals to humans at a meat market, that is yet to be confirmed.

And since public health threats can emerge anywhere, it has become a tacit consensus that they are not associated with a particular country. Pathogens have appeared in a variety of countries this century, including the US, but without the country where it emerged being stigmatized in the way China is. The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic wasn't called the US virus, even though the US had already roiled the world with the financial crisis it unleashed a year before.

That President Donald Trump has resorted to using the term coined by some veteran US China-bashers as a means to stigmatize China can only be explained by the mounting pressure he faces at home.

But while some will no doubt be willing to swallow the bait, trying to associate the growing threat to the US public's health with China is not going to remedy the harm done by the tardiness of the administration in taking action.

Considering his previous acknowledgment of China's efforts and contribution in containing the virus, the sudden change in the US leader's remarks simply serves to mark a change in the US administration's public relations strategy as it seeks a pressure release valve for the public's fear and discontent.

It probably seems a smart move, as it would appear to be a cost-free tactic with which the US leader can deflect blame for his dangerous dilly-dallying while being able to present himself as thwarting another Chinese "threat" when the pandemic is over.

In fact, the tactic is proving costly, as evidenced by the comments left below his tweet, which rather than blaming China for the crisis situation in the US, focus instead on the nub of the issue — the US administration's poor response to the pandemic.

As the first country in the world to shut its door on China, the US according to its own claim should have had the jump on other countries such as the Republic of Korea and Japan in preventing the virus from spreading among the American people. But now the momentum with which the virus is spreading in the US is among the strongest in the world.

While China is angry that it is being smeared in such a way, it is fully aware that the virus is a common threat and it remains open to cooperating with the US to coordinate their actions to counter the pandemic and its effects on the global economy.

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