The coronavirus and the new China-U.S. cold war

Xi Jinping visits Wuhan on March 10.  Photo via Unz Review

Xi Jinping is using the coronavirus pandemic to discredit the USA and to position China as the world leader and exemplar.

He contrasts China’s decisive response to the Wuhan outbreak to the slow, fumbling U.S. response.

He contrasts China’s generosity in helping other nations with U.S. economic warfare against vulnerable states.

And his government is spreading a theory that the disease originated not in a Wuhan meat market, but in a U.S. biowarfare laboratory.

Pete Escobar of Asia Times reported—

Beijing is carefully, incrementally shaping the narrative that, from the beginning of the coronovirus attack, the leadership knew it was under a hybrid war attack.

Xi’s terminology is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war.  And, as a counter-attack, a “people’s war” had to be launched.

Moreover, he described the virus as a demon or devil.  Xi is a Confucianist.  Unlike some other ancient Chinese thinkers, Confucius was loath to discuss supernatural forces and judgment in the afterlife.

However, in a Chinese cultural context, devil means “white devils” or “foreign devils”: guailo in Mandarin, gweilo in Cantonese. This was Xi delivering a powerful statement in code.

When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, voiced in an incandescent tweet the possibility that “it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to come from a top official – Beijing was sending up a trial balloon signaliing that the gloves were finally off.  

Zhao Lijian made a direct connection with the Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019, which included a delegation of 300 US military.

Via Asia Times

The Chinese leaders claim to have the coronavirus under control in their own country, and now are taking a lead in fighting the disease worldwide.  Pepe Escobar went on to report—

Beijing sent an Air China flight to Italy carrying 2,300 big boxes full of masks bearing the script, “We are waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, flowers from the same garden.”

China also sent a hefty humanitarian package to Iran, significantly aboard eight flights from Mahan Air – an airline under illegal, unilateral Trump administration sanctions.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic could not have been more explicit: “The only country that can help us is China. By now, you all understood that European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairy tale on paper.”

Under harsh sanctions and demonized since forever, Cuba is still able to perform breakthroughs – even on biotechnology. The anti-viral Heberon – or Interferon Alpha 2b – a therapeutic, not a vaccine, has been used with great success in the treatment of coronavirus.  

A joint venture in China is producing an inhalable version, and at least 15 nations are already interested in importing the therapeutic.

Now compare all of the above with the Trump administration offering $1 billion to poach German scientists working at biotech firm Curevac, based in Thuringia, on an experimental vaccine against Covid-19, to have it as a vaccine “only for the United States.”

Via Asia Times

China’s governing philosophy is a weird mixture of Maoist thought control, Confucian conservatism, blood-and-soil nationalism and neoliberal capitalism, together with elements of independent civil society left over from the Deng Xiaopeng era.  But Chinese success and American failure to deal with the coronavirus make the Chinese system highly appealing.


The consensus opinion at present is that the COVID-19 coronavirus originating in a “wet market” in Wuhan, where live animals are sold for their meat.  Typically conditions are unsanitary in such markets, and the danger of disease spreading from animals to human is great.

The Chinese government at first disbelieved the danger was real and tried to silence physicians who called attention to it.    The fact that it wasn’t entirely successful is probably due to the fact that Xi Jinping’s plans for Maoist-type thought control are not completely in place.

Then it tried to hide the problem, also unsuccessfully.  But then it responded with a decisiveness that I don’t think any other country could have matched, and apparently has brought the disease under control.

The U.S. government was not quicker to act than the Chinese government.  The Wuhan outbreak was known since the beginning of the year.  The first U.S. fatality was on Jan. 20.

Yet it is only within the past week or so that Americans have acted—mostly by issuing emergency decrees without any thoughts as to the long-term consequences.  President Trump’s actions have been limited to barring travel to the United States from affected areas.

But the U.S. problems did not originate with Donald Trump.  He did not cause the U.S. pharmaceutical and medical supplies industry to relocate outside the United States.  The decline in governmental capacity to respond to emergencies did not begin with him.

He has stepped up starvation sanctions against nations that resist U.S. power, but he did not originate these sanctions. Replacing Trump will not, in and of itself, restore American honor and competence.

I think it is foolish for Americans to scapegoat the Chinese for our government’s failure.

Medical experts and journalists have been warning of the danger of mutant infectious diseases for many years.  If there hadn’t been an outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, there would have been an outbreak somewhere else.

In fact, unless things change, COVID-19 won’t be the last pandemic and likely won’t be the worst.  Who will be best able to cope with it?


China locked in hybrid war with U.S. by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.  The whole article is important and worth reading.

Looking at the military aspects of biological warfare by The Saker.  Why suspicions that the virus originated in a biowarfare laboratory are natural, but probably unfounded.

Italy and UK rely on help from Cuba, China, Venezuela to fight coronavirus as US steps up brutal sanctions by Ben Norton for The Grayzone.

Going into lockdown, Europe overtakes China as coronavirus center by Alex Lantier for World Socialist Web Site.

Throttled by U.S. Sanctions, Iran Struggles With the Coronavirus by Barbara Slavin for The American Conservative.

Why are Korea’s Covid-19 death rates so low? by Andrew Salmon for Asia Times.  A better advertisement for democracy than the USA.

Taiwan’s exemplary response deserves emulation by Frank Chen for Asia Times.  Another better advertisement for democracy than the USA.  Unfortunately, neither South Korea nor Taiwan exercises worldwide influence.

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4 Responses to “The coronavirus and the new China-U.S. cold war”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Thanks, Phil, for your excellent summary.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. whungerford Says:

    If Beijing is carefully, incrementally shaping the narrative, so is DJT– the Federal response is timely and perfect, the disease is China’s fault, the responsibility to respond falls on the states, the Feds are on the verge of a vaccine or other treatment, he has no responsibility, the onus is on his predecessor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. paintedjaguar Says:

    I just discovered this morning that as of March 19, there is an indefinite moratorium on the issuing of U.S. passports. Obtaining a passport had already become an expensive, slow (for most) somewhat elite privilege compared to the 70’s when I first got one. I’m going to be hard to convince that this is a reasonable public health measure rather than just one more example of creeping authoritarianism in the US. I think the use of “shock doctrine” is still accelerating. And no, this trend did not originate with the election of Trump or with “Trumpism”, whatever that term is supposed to mean.


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