The United States was once a generous global leader, able to coordinate ambitious multinational responses in a global emergency. But in today’s chaotic world, the US has not taken such steps ” it has officially notified the United Nations secretary general of its withdrawal from the World Health Organisation (WHO), accusing it of being a puppet of China.
Despite being one of the most advanced and dominant countries, the ineffectiveness of the US in handling its domestic epidemic has frustrated its European allies. Meanwhile, Beijing seems to be managing the crisis effectively despite early mistakes, and other countries are learning from how China uses strict isolation measures, and receiving much-needed surgical masks and protection equipment, ventilators and medical teams from China.
The Chinese government has successfully changed public opinion through medical supplies and its speedy adjustment to the crisis, which the US is afraid of.
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The economic shock and unemployment caused by the pandemic have not only taken a heavy toll on the US’ reputation but also threatens US President Donald Trump’s re-election. To divert criticism, Trump has repeatedly thrown allegations at and threatened the WHO over its response to Covid-19. From the Paris Agreement to the WHO, Trump certainly has his personal political calculations.
Still, from a deeper perspective, this represents a tendency within the US to increasingly shed its responsibilities to the world and its allies. Is the withdrawal of the US from the international stage a strategic contraction or a forced resignation? Is China ready for global leadership as the US becomes increasingly isolationist? The answers are unclear.
Johnny H.Y. Cheung, Ma On Shan
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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