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US stigmatizing China with virus divisive at time unity is needed | Updated: 2020-03-19 20:17
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US President Donald Trump meets with representatives of nurses organizations on coronavirus response as as Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, listens in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, US, March 18, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Calling the novel coronavirus the "Chinese Virus" for the first time in a tweet on Monday, US President Donald Trump must have sent those of his China-bashing understrappers who coined the racially stigmatizing term into paroxysms of delight.

Although the US leader no doubt had a domestic audience in mind when he called the novel coronavirus a misfortune bestowed on the United States by another country, his about-face is disappointing to say the least, especially since he had previously acknowledged China's efforts to contain the virus.

By defining the virus as one made in China, the US leader has sought to hold the country responsible for the pandemic that is causing such great difficulties for the US thanks to his administration's miscalculated response to the public health threat.

If the administration had recognized from the beginning the potential of the disease to spread — as should have been evident from the unprecedented lockdown the Chinese government imposed on Hubei province after the virulence of the outbreak became apparent — and had sought to put some preparations in place, instead of trying to use the outbreak as another stick with which to beat China, the US would not be in the predicament it is at the moment and the US administration would not be having to stick so many Band Aids over its battered image.

Although he can of course downplay stigmatizing China whenever the situation allows, Trump's blame-game is also an ill-judged move, because since the outbreak first emerged in China many US states and cities have expressed sympathy and support for the Chinese people. US businesses, institutions and people donated money and supplies to China as it struggled to contain the virus. The US people know that this is not of China's volition.

Now that the pandemic has taken a grip on the US, in the same vein, Chinese businesses and civil societies are also supporting the American people in their battle with the virus.

There is no doubt the US will weather the pandemic, as will other countries. But until the storm abates, countries will need to ride it out together, helping each other as best they can.

So despite the attempts by the US administration to make China the patsy for its own folly, China will continue to work with it. But it would certainly be more agreeable for both if there was a more amicable ambience in which that cooperation could be carried out.

Trying to pass the buck to China, by stigmatizing it as the source of the outbreak, will not help the administration put the US house in order. Instead it should strengthen communication and cooperation with China to address the challenges of the pandemic and mitigate the economic shocks.

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