In maybe 30 minutes this morning I’ve seen about a half-dozen stories attacking China and blaming it for COVID-19, in The Guardian, WaPo, Foreign Policy and other publications. That’s not a coincidence….the media has joined in Trump’s crusade to deflect attention from the failed state we live in and the utterly dismal health care system that’s been exposed just as the Democratic Party whacked the one candidate who’d made National Health Care the signal issue of his campaign, and then foisted a barely-lucid liberal hack who could very well run a campaign worse than Clinton’s in 2016, which one would think would be metaphysically and cosmically impossible.
It’s been pretty clear for a while that the Chinese government kept the impact of Coronavirus under wraps and thus let it spread. Trump and his minions have been blaming the “Wuhan Virus” or the “Chinese Virus” from the start–and inflaming anti-Asian violence in the U.S. at the same time. And, all the while he was placing tariffs on Chinese goods and blaming them for COVID, he, and his family, continued to make bank on their Chinese investments.
While Americans don’t know, and likely never will, about the specific deliberations in Beijing or the politics of the timing of its public dislosures, they do know that Trump disbanded a National Security Council Pandemic team; that he ignored a Playbook for Pandemic Response (literally titled a “Playbook”), and that Tony Fauci, in January 2017, warned that some type of pandemic was coming. We do know that Peter Navarro, who’s now claiming medical expertise like Fauci, was actually on top of things in January and warned Trump about the potential for COVID to wreak great havoc on both the health system and the economy, as did HHS Secretary Alex Azar, warnings that Trump also dismissed. At the same time, various intelligence operatives were making the same case to the White House with the same result….crickets and denial.
And, most importantly, Trump and everyone in America knew about Italy. Even if Wuhan had never been an issue, there were already alarms in northern Italy, with the governments there closing down Carnivale in Venice and shutting down northern cities, a full week before Trump was still calling it a “hoax.”
We also know that Trump, against Fauci’s advice, touted hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure, thereby leading to a rush to buy the drug and leaving people who need to to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis scrambling to refill prescriptions. Oh, and in the most recent trials, it’s failed badly…. We now know that the federal government’s response to the COVID crisis has been a monumental cluster-screwup , one of epic proportions. Luckily, many governors stepped into the breach and took quick action (like Ohio’s very conservative Governor Mike DeWine, who from the very start said his decisions would be guided by science, which in American politics today, especially in the GOP, stands as a daring and courageous move) in the face of Federal inaction.
But to get back to China. The renewed, and obviously, coordinated attack on China for COVID, is part of a ruling class effort–and the ruling class includes the liberal Grey Lady and WaPo as much as it does elected officials in Washington D.C.–to deflect attention from what is an increasingly-recognized fact that the U.S. health care system is a disaster that’s unfixable in present form, to try to stem the movement toward some type of Medicare-for-All system, which is becoming increasingly popular, and to convince people that the Chinese, not Capitalism, caused this global catastrophe.
Empires tend to act in similar ways, one of which is to suppress information of its wrongdoings and errors. Whatever China hid at the outset of this pandemic clearly made it worse, but to suggest that quicker action on its part or more communication would have prevented COVID from spreading is a stretch. There was always heavy traffic between China and Italian industries in place like Lombardy, for instance, and Chinese investors and businessmen went back-and-forth to and from New York daily. And the bigger issue, hard to even know about unless you’re reading Mike Davis or Rob Wallace, is the way that corporate farms have destroyed immense tracts of lands and erased the safe space between humans and animals carrying novel viruses (and the role that American institutions like Goldman Sachs have played in that process).
Amping up the Cold War against China may prove to be a useful distraction from the way that global capitalism has destroyed the environment, immiserated billions, made the health care system decay and rot, and given us a government which brazenly defends the oligarchs and derides the people. But it’s bad politics for everyone who’s not in the tiny top percentage of American wealth.
China’s political and economic leaders can be ruthless and self-directed, but they did approach COVID with an efficiency that Trump, and the American state, is utterly incapable of matching. Blaming the Chinese won’t make COVID go away and won’t make the American economy any stronger.