Donald Trump loves the topic: To distract from his own mistakes in corona crisis management, the US President is only too happy to point out China’s responsibility. The virus could have been stopped there. “It didn’t happen, and the whole world suffers because of it,” Trump accuses the Beijing leadership. One could dismiss this as a political distraction by a president in the election and crisis campaign, but it is more.
Pandemics have caused political reorganization in the past. The corona virus could do the same. The Covid 19 crisis shows more clearly than ever how little the US currently wants to and cannot fulfill the role of world leader.
The G7 and G20 groups of states also find no convincing answers. But China will not be able to position itself as a global helper in the corona crisis. If the states are out of crisis mode, the question of responsibility for and in the Covid 19 crisis should play a crucial role and become a burden for China’s global position.
The 2007 financial crisis emanated from the United States, and China’s role as an economic stabilizer brought much recognition to the country. But a lot is different now. China cannot save the world economy, nor will the country’s role as the top pandemic fighter be relieved.
For one thing, the corona crisis has its origins in China. And undeniably, the provincial government in Hubei and the central government in Beijing reacted too late and issued international warnings.
The “Chernobyl moment” in China, which experts predicted in many places in January, when the extent of the crisis became clear, did not happen domestically. The central government has largely averted domestic resentment at the initial cover-ups and the late response to the virus outbreak and passed it on to the provincial government in Hubei. However, faster and more transparent communication would have saved other countries valuable time.
Demand for independent investigation into the outbreak
Trump is therefore not the only critic. The heads of government of India and Brazil have denounced Beijing’s role. The Australian government has called for an independent investigation into the outbreak and is “concerned” about China’s transparency. Some points may never be resolved. This could include whether the virus has spread to humans from an animal or from a laboratory.
But the discussion about it alone will burden China’s international reputation. In the United States, Republican governors are preparing a law that would allow claims for damages against China. The official statement from China that the country has brought the pandemic with fewer than 84,000 infected and less than 5,000 deaths behind is not believed internationally. The numbers are too good to be true. French President Macron openly attributes this to the fact that information in the country is not free.
For Xi Jinping, much like Donald Trump, the focus is primarily on the domestic effects of the corona crisis. However, international positioning is important for this. If Beijing stands as a world troubled man, this strengthens the domestic political argument that it has mastered the crisis well. Therefore, at a time when international cooperation is the order of the day to curb the spread of the virus and keep economic damage as low as possible, the struggle for interpretation has long begun.
Beijing is trying to position itself as a supplier of protective equipment. In view of serious deficits, for example in the European vote, there are grateful customers like in Serbia. The deliveries are important and welcome.
However, to speak of a “silk road of health” shows how much they are used for propaganda purposes. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticizes the Chinese efforts as a struggle for influence over opinion making and donor manners.
Confidence building necessary
In addition to the fact that some of the protective masks supplied in Spain, for example, turned out to be defective, the Chinese power position in this area is becoming an issue in Europe: protective masks and respirators will now join 5G technology if Europe is too dependent on China discussed.
There are many indications that the world must first adjust to a weak USA and an internationally weakened China. Successful states such as South Korea or Germany could strengthen multilateralism during this time.
Beijing has to build trust. Transparency is key. The situation is also new and challenging for the Chinese leadership. Among other things, it can demonstrate its global responsibility by forgiving debts as a big believer in African countries, even if its own economy is historically bad.
More: Western pathogens have made the West great. The corona virus could also accelerate certain geopolitical trends.