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Politicizing the fight against Covid-19 benefits nobody
2020/06/04

Francis Semwaza

As the fight against the deadly Covid-19 intensifies globally, a certain country’s anti-China propaganda still ensues, reducing the pandemic into a mere political game of influence seeking and expanding reminiscent of state behavior in times of peace.

Despite the surface level examination showing some mutual accusations between the United States and China over how the pandemic should have been handled domestically in each of these nations and globally, it remains the case that the US attacks the latter while China mainly defends itself against several of the baseless allegations.

Given its influence, the irrational behavior of the US as a country and some of its politicians would sway the population at home from putting the required seriousness into protecting themselves from the coronavirus.

This is visible especially in the shifting of blame on them for failing to protect American citizens to alleged cover-up and conspiracies including equating the novel coronavirus to a lab-made Chinese bioweapon that went out of control.

Buying into this misleading rhetoric, the US and several other western countries played down the danger of Covid-19, saying it is just like a normal flu which would disappear in no time and not cause anything significant, but only to wake up later after witnessing the increase of infections at an exponential rate and hospitals being overwhelmed by numerous patients.

It wasn’t until domestic and global numbers of casualties began to rise that the discourse changed to new heights now blaming China for not alerting the world earlier enough of the gross danger that the virus would cause, with the US accusing the World Health Organization (WHO) of colluding with China in withholding vital information regarding the outbreak and consequently cutting off its funding to the global health watchdog.

From the weak analogy of fallaciously linking the origin of novel coronavirus to China, the attacks would not stop, now targeting the international relief assistance that China has been providing to Europe, Asia and Africa as substandard.

It becomes even more complicated to find the first imported case of Covid-19 in the US anywhere in the West had the allegation that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, been true at all. There are several other reports from the Western world, including a hospital in France where some of its staff admitted to having treated patients hospitalized for complications linked to the novel coronavirus infection back in November 2019, way before the problem grew larger in China.

Driven by political motives, it is no wonder that some Western pundits would even smear President Xi Jinping’s assurance of making China’s Covid-19 vaccine a global public good once available. The West could falsely allege that China’s medical inventions are inefficient in guarding against the virus, harmful to human health, or simply leveling the claim that the would-be freely available vaccine is meant to spread China’s influence across the developing world.

While the world cheers for China’s decision to make the vaccine available and affordable, thus saving millions of people’s lives, the losses in actual profits it would incur should not be underestimated had it the Western big pharmaceutical companies pledged to make their vaccines available for human protection without charges on patent license.

Time and again, the West’s fear for the Chinese global economic ascendancy makes it resort to some rather obsolete techniques of escapism, irresponsibility and blame game instead of addressing the real challenges facing its fading political and economic appeal.

From the look of things, it all boils down to populist politics of which the West has been accusing the socialist world of propagating for decades while forgetting the manner in which its own far-right and ultra-right administrations downplay the role of science even in times of deadly outbreaks like the Covid-19 that the world is currently combating.

The ongoing anti-China smear campaign proves that the world’s superpower would use anything, including misfortunes, as a weapon to attack the Asian rising star in a bid to preserve its waning hegemony in a largely growing multipolar world.

As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi rightly pointed out, “In a crisis like this (Covid-19 pandemic), complaining, finger-pointing or scapegoating is not the way to get countries to stay focused on their battle against the virus. Such a move will very likely divide the international community, erode the gains from international cooperation, and ultimately hurt the shared interests of all.”

* Francis Semwaza is a development communications consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. E-mail: frsemwaza@aol.com

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