October 20, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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Coronavirus has created a rift between the US and China that may need a generation to recover

Chinese media coronavirus reaction rivers pkg tsr vpx _00000000

China has been criticized at home and abroad for handling the virus, especially during the initial outbreak. Pushing back such criticism with increasingly fierce rhetoric, Beijing said it was only “responding” to false accusations, especially from the US.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has repeatedly criticized China for handling the outbreak, questioning the number of deaths and criticizing the initial response to the virus. Last week, Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed – without providing evidence – that the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory. Beijing retreated in response, calling the claim a re-election tactic aimed at increasing Trump’s position among Republican voters – while the Chinese-controlled media attacked Pompeo with extraordinarily cruel language, calling it “evil,” “crazy” and “the enemy of mankind. “Button. “
But bitterness is deeper than just a war of words. Trump administration reported make a plan to punish China for pandemic retaliation options including sanctions, canceling US debt obligations and drawing up new trade policies. Trump and several administration officials too ask foreign allies to join the suppression campaign against China.

“Lowest point” in decades

The dramatic setback for relations came as a result of a two-year trade war between the two largest economies in the world – a trade war that has pushed tensions to new heights and pushed decoupling talks.

But while Trump’s approach to China is not necessarily new, the situation he now faces is “far more dramatic and dangerous,” said David Zweig, emeritus professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China Consulting Limited.

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

First detected in central Wuhan in China last December, coronaviruses have spread far beyond the country’s borders, infecting 3.9 million people and killing at least 276,000 worldwide.

The US reported its first corona virus case in January – a man who had returned to Washington state from Wuhan a few days earlier. Initially, the situation seemed to be under control one death and 22 cases reported throughout the country at the end of February. But the number of new infections exploded in March, and the US now accounts for more than a quarter of reported deaths worldwide.

The Chinese government has cast doubt on the origin of the pandemic, claiming that the earliest case might not have occurred in Wuhan.

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

Chinese communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong welcomed US President Richard Nixon at his home in Beijing during Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972.
Shi’s assessment was especially gloomy when considering number of large crises the two countries faced in the following decades: the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown in China in 1989, the American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the collision of US spy planes in the air and a Chinese fighter jet near Hainan Island in 2001, and the 2008 financial crisis.

“Since the beginning of 2018, China-US relations have entered into conditions of competition and comprehensive competition. But since the pandemic, relations have suffered a major blow,” Shi said.

Competition and antagonism between the two countries have now expanded to trade, technology, geopolitics and political ideology, and signs of decoupling are also widespread under a pandemic as locking measures disrupt flights, international travel and global supply chains, Shi said.

The rise of nationalism

When bilateral relations declined during the pandemic, US public opinion about China also reached new lows. A the latest Pew poll found that 66% of Americans have unfavorable views of China, the highest percentage recorded since the annual survey began in 2005. Only about a quarter in the US reports favorable attitudes toward China.

Likewise, in China, nationalism and anti-foreign sentiments are increasingly high. Supported by the media and government officials, there is also a growing bitterness that the Chinese people, especially the Wuhan people, have made great sacrifices to withstand the virus and suffer huge losses, but their country is still criticized for not doing enough – and being responsible answer for other government’s inadequate response to this pandemic.

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

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“People feel that ethnic Chinese are under attack. They have become very defensive. And that makes it very difficult for more rational voices to speak.”

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Economic growth and nationalism for decades have been two springs of Chinese Communist Party political legitimacy. The country’s economy has been hit hard by coronavirus outbreaks, shrinking 6.8% in the first quarter of this year – the worst decline since quarterly records began in 1992. And with economic growth more difficult to sustain than ever before, the party will likely shift more to nationalism to strengthen its grip on power.

When the number of new infections dropped in China and soared overseas, state media praised China’s success in defeating the virus while highlighting the failure of other governments to curb its spread – especially the United States.

On April 30, the Chinese government news agency, Xinhua, posted an animated video featuring figures such as Lego mocking the US response to the pandemic. Has been viewed 2 million times on Twitter.

“Although there were some mistakes in the early days in Wuhan, the Chinese people were very satisfied with the overall action. The inability of the US (government) was like a mirror, reflecting the reliability of China (the government),” said Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the tabloids The state-run Global Times, in a Tweet on Thursday.
In a comment late last month, state broadcaster CCTV praised China’s political system as the “biggest advantage” in overcoming the plague. “The Chinese Communist Party’s firm leadership is the most important reason for China to defeat the epidemic,” he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected troops during the 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 to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the May Four Movement, a student-led political movement triggered by angry protests against the government’s failure to stop foreign aggression and defend Chinese interests. Then it developed into a broader call for modernity, democracy and science.

In his speech, Xi praised young people for their role in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, and urged them to “work hard to realize China’s dream of national rejuvenation,” CCTV television reported.

Under Xi’s vision of the “Chinese dream” and the drive for “national rejuvenation,” Beijing has grown increasingly resolute in its foreign policy, wanting to project its influence in the world and persistently defend its “core” national interests, including disputed territorial claims, . This approach has drawn criticism at home and abroad for alienating the US and other members of the international community.

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International counterattack

Under the pandemic, Beijing finds itself in the midst of a growing global reaction that goes beyond the US.

Outside China, growing criticism of the handling of the plague and increasing pressure for an independent international inquiry to see its origins. There are also calls for economic compensation from China for the damage caused. In Europe, China has accused of spreading misinformation. And in Africa, Beijing facing a diplomatic crisis after the alleged report coronavirus-related discrimination against African nationals in China sparked anger across the continent.
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Shi, an adviser to the Chinese government, said several Western powers had allied with the US in blaming China for allegedly mismanaging the plague – and that was a serious foreign relations issue for Beijing.

“From the Chinese point of view, this is closely related to the prestige of the Chinese regime and potential stability,” he said.

As well as through state media, China has tried to maintain its image through diplomatic envoys. Known as “wolf soldier” diplomacy, it refers to the popular Chinese action film series in which the country’s military implements brave operations throughout the world. But the increasingly aggressive tone of some Chinese diplomats has sparked tension and sparked criticism.

China has also sent masks, test kits and other supplies and medical experts to pandemic-stricken countries – and even then, critics have questioned Beijing motif “mask diplomacy.”

“Even if after the pandemic passes, these problems will still exist. They may be less emotionally sued at the time, but they will be there all the same,” Shi said.

“The memory (the pandemic and its destruction) is so deep that I fear (the scar) will remain in the hearts of all generations.”

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