[Editorial] Washington and Beijing need to cooperate on COVID-19, not bicker

Posted on : 2020-05-06 17:43 KST Modified on : 2020-05-06 17:43 KST
US President Donald Trump speaks during a virtual town hall meeting with Fox News reporters at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on May 3. (AP/Yonhap News)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a virtual town hall meeting with Fox News reporters at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on May 3. (AP/Yonhap News)

The US and China are currently clashing over claims that China is “responsible” for the novel coronavirus pandemic. In recent remarks, US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have recently been claiming that evidence shows the virus to have emerged from a virus laboratory in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province. In other words, they are saying the virus was manufactured by China rather than having occurred naturally. China Central Television (CCTV) responded by harshly denouncing the “wicked” Pompeo for “spitting poison and spreading lies.”

In a press briefing on May 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) dismissed the hypothesis of origins in Wuhan as “speculation,” stressing that an examination of 15,000 gene sequences obtained for the coronavirus showed all of them to have originated in nature. But the controversy continues unabated. As he bids for re-election, Trump has been attempting to use claims of China’s responsibility to deflect criticisms over his slow-footed response to the virus’s outbreak. Chinese President Xi Jinping is in a similar position of having to control the damage to his image from the failed early response. It’s a situation where neither of the two powers can afford to give any ground in their blinking contest. Trump’s threats of imposing tariffs on China have raised fears around the world that the situation could well escalate into a US-China trade war.

It is deeply irresponsible for Washington and Beijing to be steering into conflict and antagonism rather than cooperating on the pandemic. International cooperation is essential for overcoming the novel coronavirus, and those two powers in particular could be said to bear a great responsibility. Many developing countries have been demanding that the advanced economies quickly develop and fairly distribute a vaccine and treatments for the virus. The WHO has stressed that the true measure of success in international cooperation on the virus will lie not only in how quickly safe and effective tools can be developed, but also in how equitably they are distributed.

It’s especially dismaying to see Trump consistently shunning international cooperation on the virus as he pushes his “America first” views. His announcement of the US discontinuing funding for the WHO is one example of this. On May 4, 40 countries and philanthropists raised US$8.2 billion for vaccine and treatment development at an online conference; the US was not among them.

This is a moment that calls for the whole world to harness its wisdom and strength to beat the pandemic. The so-called “G2” nations of the US and China in particular should be leading by example. Both of them should be asking why people have begun remarking on the “G-Zero era” and the vacuum of leadership in the international community.

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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