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Trump's anti-China coronavirus rhetoric will cost many lives

By John Ross | | Updated: 2020-03-23 14:07
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US President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus (COVID-19) briefing at the White House in Washington, US, March 17, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Donald Trump has launched xenophobic attacks on China over COVID-19 with only one purpose – to attempt to divert attention from his failure to prepare the US for the inevitable spread of the coronavirus. But this anti-China rhetoric will have serious consequences for the American people, leading to many lost lives. Therefore, from the point of view of the truth and the direct interests of the American people, it is vital this rhetoric is condemned and rejected, as many responsible people in the US are doing.

To see how serious Trump’s failure to prepare the American people for the coronavirus was, it is necessary to understand the situation in the US is already worse than the most severe period of the outbreak in China.

This reality is disguised by confusing comparisons of the absolute number of coronavirus cases in the US to China. But China’s population is more than four times the US’. Therefore, to judge the severity of the US outbreak it is necessary to make a comparison in proportion to the size of population.

Based on World Health Organization data, by March 20 there were 4,777 new cases that day in the US. In proportion to the population of China that would be equivalent to 20,230 cases. But on the worst day of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Feb 4, there were only 3,887 new daily cases. Therefore, in relation to population, the daily spread of the virus in the US is already more than five times as severe as the worst period in China.

Only six weeks after this peak, China reduced domestic transmissions of the coronavirus to zero.

But entirely wrong judgements made by President Trump led to the situation of the intensity of coronavirus cases being much worse in the US than in China.

● Trump declared on Jan22: “We have [the coronavirus] totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” This was totally false.

● On Feb26 Trump made a similarly false prediction: “The 15 [cases in the US] within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” And: “We're going very substantially down, not up.” In reality, as already seen the number of US coronavirus cases rose dramatically to many times the worst period in China.

● On Feb 28 he declared : “The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus….This is their new hoax.”

At every step, Trump has made wrong judgements regarding the coronavirus.

He desperately attempted to conceal this total failure, but this diversionary rhetoric is being overwhelmed by the reality of the rapidly growing number of US cases and deaths.

As Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer, put it: “when it was… feuds with other celebrities or contests over ratings or hotel branding… no one cared enough to really check. And the bluster and bragging worked.”

”But in this case… you can’t brag or bluster your way out of people dying. ”

That is the reason Trump launched his totally diversionary attack on China - referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”.

Others in the US understand the reality. This, for example, was a recent column in Bloomberg with the self-evident headline: “The rest of the world is falling in step with Beijing’s way of fighting the coronavirus.” It noted governments’ responses: “events eventually force them to take China’s path: closing schools and public places, shutting borders, imposing curfews, inhibiting movement.”

Any responsible US president, aiming to save the lives of the American people, would have asked for cooperation with China. China would undoubtedly have been willing to help the US.

But instead of asking for cooperation with China, Trump launched his xenophobic attack.

This not only shows a failure to learn the lessons of China’s success in fighting the coronavirus, but attempted to prevent Americans from learning the lessons of China’s success. The inevitable result will be many unnecessary deaths.

In short, President Trump’s xenophobic attack on China was not only an attack on that country but a direct attack on the American people.

As Leon Panetta, former defense secretary and director of the CIA put it : ”History is not going to be kind with the fact that they knew about this pandemic going back a number of months and did very little to prepare the country to deal with it.”

Trump’s attack on China is a futile attempt to head off what will be the inevitable verdict of history on a disaster for the American people. If continued, it will cost many American lives.

John Ross is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China and former Director of Economic and Business Policy for the City of London.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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