Coro­n­avirus rocks al­ready strained ties be­tween US and China

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - WEATHER - By Matthew Lee

WASH­ING­TON >> Badly strained ties be­tween the United States and China are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing fur­ther with the two sides hurl­ing harsh ac­cu­sa­tions and bit­ter name-call­ing over re­spon­si­bil­ity for the spread of the novel coro­n­avirus.

The global pan­demic is just one in a series of ir­ri­tants that has rocked the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing since the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan to step up long-sim­mer­ing con­fronta­tions on is­sues rang­ing from ter­ri­tory to trade to high-tech telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The virus, how­ever, has ex­posed an even deeper rift, one that widened yet again on Tues­day when China an­nounced the ex­pul­sion of a num­ber of Amer­i­can jour­nal­ists. The move un­der­scored the grow­ing mu­tual mis­trust and hos­til­ity be­tween the world’s two largest economies.

Since the virus has spread, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his top aides, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, have stepped up their crit­i­cism of China, not­ing con­sis­tently that the out­break was first re­ported in the Chi­nese city of Wuhan in late 2019. They have re­ferred to the virus as the “Wuhan virus” or the “Chi­nese virus” on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, dis­re­gard­ing World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ter­mi­nol­ogy that avoids iden­ti­fy­ing it by ge­og­ra­phy.

On Tues­day alone, Trump dis­cussed the Chi­nese source of virus out­break dur­ing at least two events and de­nied there was any stigma at­tached to the la­bel. On Wed­nes­day, he tweeted at Amer­i­cans who are fac­ing eco­nomic hard­ship caused by the pan­demic that “the on­slaught of the Chi­nese Virus is not your fault.”

At a State De­part­ment news con­fer­ence, Pom­peo re­ferred six times to the virus as the “Wuhan virus” and sug­gested the Chi­nese are at­tempt­ing to dis­tract the world from the short­com­ings of its ini­tial re­sponse by high­light­ing its tough mea­sures that have helped con­tain the out­break. Pom­peo also sug­gested that an “af­ter ac­tion” re­port would cor­rob­o­rate his claim, in­di­cat­ing that the ten­sions are un­likely to end when the pan­demic is over.

Ex­perts are not un­sym­pa­thetic to that po­si­tion.

“They made some blun­der­ous mis­takes in the early six or seven weeks, and then they came down hard with a gar­gan­tuan quar­an­tine,” said J. Stephen Mor­ri­son, di­rec­tor of the Global Health Pol­icy Cen­ter at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, re­fer­ring to China.

“And they now con­trol the nar­ra­tive that this has been hugely suc­cess­ful and they sup­press what­ever ad­di­tional dis­si­dent thoughts there may be on ex­actly what’s go­ing on,” he told re­porters in a con­fer­ence call.

In a meet­ing with ho­tel ex­ec­u­tives at the White House, Trump took pains to make clear that the virus orig­i­nated in China, ask­ing pointed ques­tions of Mar­riott CEO Arne Soren­son about where the im­pact was first felt.

“And this all started in China? That’s where you first saw the prob­lem and where you first got hit?” Trump asked. “Ab­so­lutely,” Soren­son replied.

“Hope­fully, you all heard that,” Trump told re­porters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.