The confrontation between the United States and China has disrupted international cooperation indispensable for dealing with the new coronavirus. Unless the world’s two major powers join hands, containing the infection and reviving the world economy cannot be expected.
What is important now is for each country to share information on the virus and establish an international cooperative framework for the development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs. Controversy between the United States and China over the source of the infection has hindered such moves.
Of course, China bears the greatest responsibility.
The first place in the world where the virus spread was the Chinese city of Wuhan. At the end of last year, a local doctor who had promptly warned of an emergency was punished by the local government. It cannot be denied that China’s tendency to conceal information has led to the outbreak in Wuhan and its spread worldwide.
When, where, and how did the virus originate and spread? Deeper discussions based on scientific data would be effective in preventing a recurrence. The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to send experts to China to investigate.
China should accept the investigation as soon as possible. It is necessary to provide all materials useful for the research without limiting what is subject to investigation.
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continue to argue with China, claiming that a laboratory in Wuhan is the source of the disease. China denies the claim, saying there is no scientific evidence.
The United States is the most infected country in the world and has a long way to go before the situation settles. It is important to determine the source of the virus, but Trump should focus on domestic measures first. He can’t complain if he is accused of using his tactics to criticize China by threatening retaliation such as tariffs as a way to drum up support.
The global supply chain has already been hit. The world is not in a situation for the United States and China to continue their trade friction. Officials in charge of the two countries’ trade talks held a phone conversation on Friday. It is said to be the first official talks in about four months. They should deal with the matter more swiftly.
Trump calls himself a “wartime president,” while Chinese President Xi Jinping also calls the situation a “people’s war.” They may have likened the current state to a war, regarding it as a crisis that requires broad cooperation from the public.
Trump compared the pandemic with the Imperial Japanese Army’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, saying the new virus is “really the worst attack we’ve ever had.”
Infectious diseases are not conflicts between countries. No military power is used. Expressions such as “attack” and “war” can cause people to lean toward condemnation of other countries, forgetting that the enemy is a virus. Leaders should avoid such easy analogies.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 11, 2020.