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Politics of epidemic and fear of China’s rise affecting war against coronavirus

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Added 19th February 2020 03:16 PM

This coming barely a week after U.S commerce secretary Wilbur Ross argued that Coronavirus will “help to accelerate the return of jobs to America," it can be argued that some Western capitals and media are using coronavirus as a tool to limit the rise of China.

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Ssemanda Allawi

This coming barely a week after U.S commerce secretary Wilbur Ross argued that Coronavirus will “help to accelerate the return of jobs to America," it can be argued that some Western capitals and media are using coronavirus as a tool to limit the rise of China.

By Ssemanda Allawi

International politics, Western fear of China’s rise and recent Xenophobia tendencies pause a major threat in the fight against Coronavirus which in the long run may affect humanity.

Indeed, Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister who doubles as president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, has argued that; “The wider world should show sympathy and express solidarity with the long-suffering Chinese people”, adding that: “These are ugly times and the racism implicit (and sometimes explicit) in many responses to Chinese people around the world makes me question just how far we have really come as a human family.”

It can be argued that Rudd’s view in the war against coronavirus resonates well with humanity and a belief that anything that affects wellbeing of humanity should be confronted by entire humanity, after all, epidemics like coronavirus don’t have passports neither do they require visa’s to spread – after all, it is not yet very clear when it comes to coronavirus’ reservoir host.

In some Western media reporting, we have seen some derogatory titles and remarks as it was the case with the recent Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed entitled; “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” by Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College. Arguably, it is such articles that have increased xenophobic tendencies where Chinese people have been victims, especially on social media with some people describing the virus as Chinese.

In political lenses, we have also seen some western media with several articles mixing the treatment of Coronavirus with the Chinese Communist Party. Arguably, such writings are not a mere coincidence but are rather signs and symptoms of the wrong and long held belief that when it comes to countering epidemics or challenges, the so-called modern liberal democracies more than any know how to handle and manage such epidemics than those they often refer to as undemocratic regimes despite facts proving otherwise. For example, going by figures of Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, presently, the number of death’s caused by coronavirus world over if compared with those of flu season in the U.S alone are far higher than those of coronavirus but this kind of information is rarely discussed especially in western media.

In the United Kingdom, The Guardian carried Op-Ed by Emma Graham-Harrison where he argues that; “China soon won international plaudits for a huge mobilisation, including the near-impossible feat of building two new hospitals in as many weeks yet as information about the early days of the outbreak has slowly filtered out of China, it has become increasingly clear that the same political system that allowed Beijing to order such a dramatic response, also initially allowed the virus to foster.”

This coming barely a week after U.S commerce secretary Wilbur Ross argued that Coronavirus will “help to accelerate the return of jobs to America," it can be argued that some Western capitals and media are using coronavirus as a tool to limit the rise of China.

On the other hand, Foreign Policy magazine in the U.S published an article entitled; “Welcome to the Belt and Road Pandemic”, a clear misrepresentation of China funded Belt and Road Initiative project. Laurie Garrett, the author of this article argues that; “By making the Belt and Road Initiative endeavour - a multitrillion-dollar programme to expand Chinese trade and infrastructure around the world - the epicentre of his foreign and economic policy, China’s president Xi Jinping has made it possible for a local disease to become a global menace.” All this explains that despite being a human threat as well as a possible cause of economic setback, the outbreak of Coronavirus has been politicized yet it is clear that to win defeat and contain such outbreaks, often the world requires combined efforts.

Aware that outbreaks like Coronavirus can have far-reaching economic impact on economies especially in developing economies like in Africa, there is need for African countries to unite and support China in their fight against coronavirus, after all, there is history that African countries have previously worked well with China in fighting outbreaks such as Ebola in DRC and in West Africa especially in countries like Liberia and Guinea Conakry, as well as the efforts of Africa and China in tackling communicative disease within framework of FOCAC.

African countries under the African Union should, therefore, be hailed for having responded to  coronavirus epidemic with care without causing panic among its people. This is what the African philosophy of Ubuntu calls for not fronting ideological differences or xenophobic tendencies.

The writer is the Author of Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping World Order.

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