The coronavirus created a rift between the United States and China that could take a generation to heal

Chinese media coronavirus reaction rivers pkg tsr vpx _00000000

China has been criticized at home and abroad for managing the virus, particularly during the initial outbreak. Rejecting such criticism with increasingly fierce rhetoric, Beijing claims it is simply “responding” to false accusations, particularly from the United States.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has repeatedly launched itself in China to manage the epidemic, questioning the death toll and criticizing its early response to the virus. Last week, Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed – without providing evidence – that the virus comes from a Chinese laboratory. Beijing dismissed in response, reiterating the claim a re-election tactic aimed at strengthening Trump’s position among Republican voters – while the Chinese government-controlled media attacked Pompeo in unusually vicious language, calling him “evil”, “insane” and “enemy of humanity” “.
But the acronym is deeper than a simple war of words. Reportedly, the Trump administration draw up plans punish China for the pandemic – retaliatory options include sanctions, cancellation of US debt obligations and development of new trade policies. Trump and several administration officials are also enlist foreign allies participate in the pressure campaign against China.

“Lowest point” for decades

The dramatic deterioration in relations follows the two-year trade war between the two major economies of the world: a trade war that had already pushed tensions to new heights and spurred on to talk about decoupling.

However, while Trump’s approach to China isn’t necessarily new, the situation he faces is “much more dramatic and dangerous,” said David Zweig, an emeritus professor at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong and director of Transnational China Consulting Limited.

“The stakes are much higher,” said Zweig. “In 2016 it was people’s work. In 2020, it’s people’s lives.”

First discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, the coronavirus spread far beyond the country’s borders, infecting 3.9 million people and killing at least 276,000 worldwide.

The United States reported its first coronavirus case in January – a man who had returned to Washington state from Wuhan days earlier. Initially, the situation seemed to be under control, with one death and 22 cases reported across the country by the end of February. But the number of new infections exploded in March and the United States now accounts for over a quarter of reported deaths worldwide.

The Chinese government has questioned the origins of the pandemic, arguing that the first cases may not have occurred in Wuhan.

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Shi Yinhong, a Chinese government adviser and professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said that US-China relations have “reached the lowest point since 1972” when former US President Richard Nixon made the his historic visit to Beijing to normalize bilateral relations with China, which for years had been diplomatically isolated from the West.

Chinese Communist President Mao Zedong welcomes American President Richard Nixon to his home in Beijing during Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972.
Shi’s assessment is particularly severe when taken into consideration the number of serious crises the two countries confronted each other in the following decades: the deadly repression of China in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the American attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the mid-air collision of an American spy plane and a nearby Chinese fighter jet to the island of Hainan in 2001 and the financial crisis of 2008.

“Since the beginning of 2018, China-US relations have already entered a state of global competition and rivalry. However, relations have suffered a major blow since the pandemic,” Shi said.

The rivalry and antagonism between the two countries has now extended to trade, technology, geopolitics and political ideology, and the signs of decoupling are also expanding under the pandemic as blockade measures halt flights. international travel and global supply chains, Shi said.

Rising nationalism

As bilateral ties plummet during the pandemic, American public opinion about China has also touched a new low. A recent Pew survey he found that 66% of Americans had an unfavorable view of China, the highest percentage since the annual survey began in 2005. Only about a quarter in the United States say they have a favorable attitude towards China.

Likewise, in China, nationalism and anti-foreign sentiment are very high. Backed by media and state officials, there is also a growing sense of bitterness that the Chinese, especially the people of Wuhan, have made huge sacrifices to contain the virus and have suffered great losses, but their country is still criticized for not have done enough – – and take the blame for the inadequate response of other governments to manage the pandemic.

“It is very clear when there is external hostility towards China, people tend to become more nationalist. And the Party (Chinese Communist) plays with it,” said Zweig.

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“People feel that the Chinese ethnic group is under attack. They become very defensive. And it makes it very difficult to speak with more rational voices.”

80 million Chinese may already be out of work. Another 9 million will soon be competing for work too

Economic growth and nationalism have been the two sources of political legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party for decades. The country’s economy has suffered a major blow since the outbreak of the coronavirus, contracting 6.8% in the first quarter of this year – the worst drop since quarterly records began in 1992. And with economic growth more difficult to argue that never, the party is likely to turn even more to nationalism to consolidate its hold on power.

As the number of new infections dropped in China and increased overseas, state-run media outlets propagated China’s success in defeating the virus, highlighting other governments’ failures to curb its spread – particularly the United States.

On April 30, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua released an animated video featuring Lego-like figures who mocked the U.S. response to the pandemic. It has been viewed 2 million times on Twitter.

“Despite some mistakes in the early days in Wuhan, the Chinese people are very satisfied with the general actions. The incompetence of the United States (government) is like a mirror, reflecting the reliability of the Chinese (government),” said Hu Xijin , editor-in-chief of the state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times, in a Tweet on Thursday.
In a comment At the end of last month, the state-run CCTV broadcaster hailed the Chinese political system as “the biggest advantage” in overcoming the epidemic. “The firm leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most important reason for China to defeat the epidemic,” he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects troops during a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 2019 in Beijing.

Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech to the country’s youth on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the May 4th Movement, a student-led political movement sparked by angry protests against the government’s inability to stop the aggression. foreign and defend the interests of China. He later grew into wider demands for modernity, democracy and science.

In his speech, Xi praised the youth for their part in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic and urged them to “work hard for the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” said state-run CCTV station.

Under Xi’s vision of the “Chinese dream” and the push for “national rejuvenation”, Beijing has become increasingly assertive in its foreign policy, eager to project its influence into the world and firmly defend its “main” national interests, including the disputed territorial claims. This approach has already sparked criticism at home and abroad for the alienation of the United States and other members of the international community.

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International game

Under the pandemic, Beijing is in the midst of a growing global backlash that extends far beyond the United States.

Outside of China, criticism is growing for the management of the epidemic and pressure is increasing for an independent international investigation that analyzes its origins. There are also claims for economic compensation from China for the damage caused. In Europe, China has been accused of spreading disinformation. And in Africa, in Beijing faced a diplomatic crisis after the alleged reports discrimination related to coronavirus against African citizens in China sparked anger across the continent.
Beijing faces a diplomatic crisis after reports of mistreatment of Africans in China cause outrage

Shi, the Chinese government’s adviser, said some Western powers have aligned themselves with the United States for accusing China of allegedly mistreating the outbreak – and this is a serious foreign relations problem for Beijing.

“From China’s perspective, this is closely tied to the prestige of the Chinese regime and potential stability,” he said.

In addition to state media, China has sought to defend its image through diplomatic envoys. Known as the “wolf warrior” diplomacy, it refers to a popular series of Chinese action films in which the country’s army carries out bold operations around the world. However, the increasingly combative tone of some Chinese diplomats has fueled tensions and sparked criticism.

China also sent masks, test kits and other supplies and medical experts to the countries hit hard by the pandemic – and even then, the critics I questioned the reasons for Beijing’s so-called “mask diplomacy”.

“Even if after the pandemic has passed, these problems will remain. At that point they may be less emotionally charged, but they will still be there,” Shi said.

“The memory (of the pandemic and its devastation) is so deep that I fear (the scars) will remain in the hearts of an entire generation.”

CNN’s Vivian Salama, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Kylie Atwood and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.


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