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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.pcf.fr/la_chine_l_onu_l...

China, the UN, Multilateralism and the Emerging World, under fire from Trump

PCF INTERNATIONAL published on 23/04/2020

Translated Saturday 25 April 2020, by Stephen Chalk

The coronavirus has become a new source of conflict with China for the United States. The confrontation, which began on the trade front and then on the high-tech front, is being carried with a vengeance into the realm of ideology by a Trump in search of a scapegoat. At a time when the American people are realizing the scale and impact of the pandemic on their territory, its president is multiplying the charges against Beijing, accusing it of “concealment” and “violation of the International Health Regulations”. We are witnessing an extreme politicisation of the pandemic, triggering a controversy that is intolerable in view of the highly dangerous planetary situation, both current and future, and which is liable to plunge public opinion back into a “cold war”-type mind-set of a bi-polar world. The arsenal of propaganda which the United States is accustomed to using in order to crush all it considers to be potential enemies - a reminder is needed of the manipulations that led to the attack on Iraq and the various coups d’état in Latin America - is being brought into action. A conspiracy theory has blown up once again, this time targeting a biological research laboratory in Wuhan, from which the Covid-19 is said to have escaped. Despite being rejected by the scientific community, the rumour is growing.

A reactionary British think-tank, the Henry Jackson Society, proposed suing the Chinese government in the international courts for damages, encouraging the UK to file a criminal complaint before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague for breach of health commitments. This is what British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was implying when he affirmed that Beijing will be “held to account”. Republican Senator Josh Hawley and several members of the US Congress have initiated an “international investigation” into the management of the epidemic by the Chinese Communist Party. The State of Missouri has just filed a criminal complaint against China for “withholding crucial information” and being “responsible for an unnecessary and preventable global pandemic”. In the wake of this, some ten thousand citizens from all over the world have instructed lawyers to file a lawsuit against Beijing. They are demanding trillions of dollars in compensation. Far from distancing himself from this campaign and trying to promote the necessary international cooperation and solidarity, the French President has added fuel to the fire by asserting, without any other valid argument, in an interview with the Financial Times, that “There are clearly things that have happened (in China, ed.) that we don’t know about”.

For the neo-liberal powers, it is becoming more and more imperative to drag China into the dock: the epidemic is providing them with new grievances in addition to their fundamental accusation against Beijing: that of not complying with the “Washington Consensus” version of development and globalisation. Two factors have particularly irritated the United States and its allies. After serious and acknowledged delays in its initial handling of the health crisis, the Chinese government did not hesitate to curb its economic growth in order to respond to the health emergency with a national mobilisation on an exceptional scale. All these efforts have been hailed as having contributed to the control of the epidemic by the World Health Organization and in particular by the journal “Science”. But during those crucial weeks when China and then its closest neighbours were facing an unknown virus, the developed countries looked haughtily on at the alerts issued by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to bring tests into general use, trace the sick, isolate them and provide protective equipment. With a certain condescension, they appeared more inclined to believe they were safe from epidemics of this kind, which usually hit emerging countries. The inertia that the WHO is now being accused of appears to be an a posteriori justification for their disastrous health policies at a time when the virus was crossing borders. These State fiascos both in Europe and in the United States have weakened the dominant position of these countries. At a time when there was no response from the European Union and Trump was swearing by economic logic alone, China, which was experiencing a very timid recovery from the crisis, offered the rest of the world, not without media coverage, medical aid that was immediately relabelled “mask diplomacy” and a “propaganda tool”. On the arrival of aid in Italy, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, expressed annoyance (24th March) at a “politics of generosity”. “Solidarity should not be exploited for one’s own ends”, added France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Amélie de Montchalin (29th March), accusing China of “staging” the aid provided. It is true that the video shared on the social media, of an employee of the Italian company Svecom in Montecchio Maggiore, hoisting the Chinese flag in place of the EU flag, caused a lot of grinding of teeth in Brussels.

In the midst of this hue and cry, the Chinese government’s proposal to the G20 for the organization of international health cooperation and the taking of joint initiatives to provide a way out of this situation for the whole world met with no response from the Western capitals. The same is true of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call for an “immediate global ceasefire” to deal with a common enemy: COVID-19. Worse than this silence are Trump’s salvoes against the WHO and its Director-General, accused of collusion with Beijing, a pretext for the previously envisaged suspension of America’s contribution, and a direct attack, beyond the target of its great Asian rival, against all of the international institutions of the UN, guarantor of the multilateralism of which the White House refuses to hear a word. At a time when the international community needs to come together, Trumpist political manipulation is the last thing the world needs. The scale of the pandemic crisis, and of the whole of the global challenges with which we are faced, requires a collective response. A vision that China upholds and which makes it a “pole of attraction” in an emerging world, extremely impoverished in health, economic and food terms and placed under pressure by the rules of capitalist and financial globalization. And this world wants to make itself heard. What happened last Monday at the UN General Assembly is significant in this respect. A resolution put forward by Mexico proposing “equitable access” to “future vaccines” and supporting the crucial role played by the WHO was adopted unanimously. Because the voting rules have been changed by the adoption of confinement provisions, the United States failed in its attempt to block the text. A slap in the face for Trump, perhaps a big step forward for humanity.

Dominique Bari
Member of the International Relations Commission of the PCF
Former China correspondent of L’Humanité

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