Flu outbreak reveals US’ true colors

By He Weiwen Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/19 13:19:11

Cover of the report "China's Fight Against COVID-19 Epidemic: A Decisive Campaign" by the Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS) Photo: Courtesy of the SIIS

While people in China and around the world are actively cooperating to combat the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) outbreak, some US politicians and media are making accusations against China, questioning the effectiveness of its response to the epidemic. However, the US sees frequent outbursts of influenza, and its government not only reacts with extremely low efficiency but also remains silent. The contrast has revealed a US double standard. 

The US has a small government and a big society. Its government barely reacts to issues like influenza. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 35.5 million people contracted influenza during the 2018-19 season and 34,200 deaths as a result of influenza were recorded. 

The US federal government has neither the capability nor the power to mobilize the entire nation to support individual locations, order lockdowns or require everyone to wear masks. Its epidemic control capabilities are poor. The US promises its citizens personal freedoms and democratic rights. It has no legal basis to interfere in its people's behavior. The US instead believes China is infringing upon individual rights. However, amid an epidemic, the US' mindset is not appropriate as people's lives and health have become priorities. It seems that those in the US accusing China are not seeing the bigger picture. Their views cannot explain a complicated situation. 

Since the central government first learned of the COVID-19 outbreak, it has taken measures to control the spread of infection. Within just one month, the situation has been contained. The US has turned a blind eye to China's speed and effectiveness in combating the virus. Constructing a hospital within a week, gathering resources nationwide and sending them to the epidemic's epicenter are things the US government, with its poor disaster relief capabilities, could never do. 

International society will judge whether or not the US is qualified to criticize China in this regard. The Chinese government's response to the virus outbreak should be evaluated by relevant bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO), rather than countries or individuals.

Many nations around the world have been lending a helping hand to China. Though US companies have provided assistance, limited relief has been offered by the US government. Moreover, US President Donald Trump is seeking to cut the US' WHO funding by more than 50 percent. That has shown the US cares little not only for the safety of its own people, but also for the safety of people around the world. US politicians only value election ballots. 

The US government's public health spending has been in decline. Trump has not only abolished Obamacare, but has also cut the public health industry's budget. It seems he would rather spend money on defense and his border wall. 

The US president could have declared a national state of emergency to push through administrative measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic in the US, but he did not as a public health emergency is unlikely to win him ballots. The US' response is politically driven, serving only individuals and interest groups. 

By contrast, China has mobilized its people and served them by fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. But China also has lesson to learn: It must improve its public health defense mechanism and governance capability. The country should form a regular force to cut costs and boost efficiency. 

The author is a former economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese Consulates General in San Francisco and New York, and a senior research fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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