President Trump was quickly identified as a part of the problem when the coronavirus emerged from China and began spreading around the world into the United States. Trump campaigned largely on an “America first” foreign policy and has been often criticised for rejecting the role that the United States of America has played in the world. Now we are in a global pandemic and he is being accused of alienating key allies, refusing to corporate globally and fighting the coronavirus alone.
Even though the current climate shows how he has been proved right in many ways regarding China and their foreign policy, many educated people in the United States are using their personal dislike towards the president rather than acknowledging what has actually happened.
The COVID-19 crisis has helped to prove Trump’s long-term thoughts on China have some strong grounds. These are something along the lines of: China takes advantage of the competitive world we live in, the state has unparalleled levels of international power and action, international institutions have very little ability to influence the behaviour of the state.
It is evident that the country's lack of honesty and transparency prevented urgent action that might have been able to contain the virus. In Wuhan, Chinese officials punished civilians for spreading any rumours about the disease and the lab in Shanghai that first published about the virus on platforms was immediately shut down the next day. A number of officials at the Wuhan health commission ensured that experts visiting were not allowed to talk freely with doctors at various wards. Now China is attempting to create a new rhetoric that the United States are bizarrely responsible for the virus.
A fantastic video below from The New York Times details exactly how the People’s Republic of China has been running a new propaganda campaign detailing how it has blamed the United States for the virus.
“Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of others.”
There was much hope in 2001 when China entered the World Trade Organisation as George W. Bush had hoped they would become a “responsible stakeholder.” However, it is evident that the Chinese Communist Party has used the advantages of a WTO membership to progress their political and economic system which is considerably different from America’s open society.
We must begin to move away from the Utopia China we expect and want but instead deal with the reality of the Communist Party’s action. For decades, various Republicans and Democrats have warned us about China’s unwillingness to cooperate and play on the same field. The “U.S. - China Economic Security Commission” called out a large number of issues with China’s practices. President Obama blasted China in a speech before G-20 regarding their currency manipulation but failed to proceed with any decisive actions.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown that economic co-operation does not happen where there is a gap in geopolitical competition. The problems in a hyper-globalised economy are being seen as there is a reliance on China for crucial medical equipment. The Wall Street Journal explained that China is the sole producer of ingredients for certain types of drugs, including antibiotics that help treat infections such as pneumonia. The reliance on Chinese suppliers for medical supplies is worrying as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated how they are already suffering shortages with Chinese factories being closed down. Questions will be raised about whether Americans should have to rely on an authoritarian state for its citizens’ health. Furthermore, the U.S. and other free societies allow Chinese companies (often with association to the Chinese Communist Party) the freedom over other aspects of their countries. It has taken a global health crisis for people to see that Donald Trump had a valid point when he insisted that the country is far too dependent economically on China. It is likely that this outbreak will push forward a manufacturing exodus from China as various companies begin to see the problems of giving an authoritarian country so much influence on their supply chains. The need for diversifying production locations has become clear especially after Beijing placed its citizens in quarantine, effectively shutting large chunks of its economy for weeks. Although predicting the coronavirus was always going to be tough, there is a huge risk from over-dependence on an authoritarian country which has happily broken rules to get ahead of the curve.
A huge amount of Trump’s critics to his foreign-policy often put misled belief into multilateral and international organizations. These organisations in reality simply promote action where there is a universal common issue. However, many view them in an idealised manner whereby they thought as key to solving global issues and promote values shared by us all. The reality speaks very differently, as practice shows that international organisations tend to be influenced by the relationships they hold with certain members.
After we are done with this and are forced to rebuild out of the economic rubble, we must consider what role China should play. We have 24/7 media coverage who criticise every politician’s actions but maybe they should be asking the question: Who is responsible for this and how do we prevent this from occurring again?