Increasing stigmatizing of China rooted in geopolitical competition

By Fabio Massimo Parenti Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/18 16:33:40

Medical workers wearing a face make and protection gear help a patient on a stretcher suspected of having COVID-19, inside the new coronavirus intensive care unit of the Brescia Poliambulanza hospital, Lombardy, Italy on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic, there have been episodes of blatant discrimination against Chinese people. The virus has been linked to a nationality and to an ethnicity, and Chinese citizens abroad are paying the price. 

There was never a country or race attached to the 2009 Swine Flu, which exploded in the US, spread worldwide, and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. 

Pathogens that spread around the world can originate in any country. Viruses know no geographical boundary and the exact origin of COVID-19 has yet to be specifically determined. 

Scientists, especially those in China, have published a huge number of studies since the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. Many characteristics of the virus and the disease it causes remain undetermined. 

New research conducted in China and Japan has raised doubts over the "China" origin of the virus. The genome of the virus appears to differ from country to country. The genome of the virus in Italy is not an exact match to the one in China. Numerous variations have also been found in the genetic make of the virus in the US. 

There is also speculation that the virus in China may have been imported. This is not to suggest that it was a deliberate act - although China and Iran are asking for more information from the US. At this point, it's important to leave the question to studies and experts to answer.

Like China, Italy has now become a target of attacks and criticism and Italians suffered discrimination abroad. We must not nationalize this global fight, which will require solidarity and cooperation.

Many argue that ignorance generates discrimination. However, in this case anti-Chinese sentiments are being fueled by the media and political representatives. 

We maintain that the increased discrimination of the past few months derives from geopolitical competition. 

It appears obvious that some people are trying to take advantage of a global health emergency to continue to counter China's growth and contain its peaceful development. The US is leading this dangerous geopolitical game.

The politicization of this virus is unacceptable. Criticizing China and underestimating the crisis have served to create political confusion and undermined the situation in Europe and the US. Yet China is emerging stronger.

This crisis is a test for all the world's authorities and peoples. Some have called the epidemic "China's Chernobyl," but reality is showing that it could be the US and Europe's new Chernobyl. 

Italian frontline doctors, who are in the midst of trying to contain the virus, speak like their Chinese counterparts. "This is a war against an invisible enemy we don't know," they say. 

For weeks doctors and experts have been warning not to downplay the threat of the virus, not to trivialize its potential impact and to learn from the intense, dramatic, and extraordinarily effective Chinese experience.

Another lesson China has offered to Italy during these very difficult days is the need for solidarity, and providing messages of hope, help and medical equipment and healthcare personnel. As a saying goes: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. We can add that a nation's degree of civilization shows itself in times of need. During this global crisis, China and Italy are showing the results of one of the longest, most enduring friendships between the two peoples. 

While other Western countries are doing almost nothing to show solidarity with Italy, Italy has been receiving practical support from China, including donations and important supplies. Does anyone still believe our allies who told us to "not let China enter your markets" or to "guard against the China threat?" Actually, China and Italy are sharing the same fate and showing what international solidarity really means. China and Italy are paving the way for a new form of international cooperation between nations. 

The author is associate professor of Geography/International Studies (ASN), teaching at the International Institute Lorenzo de' Medici, Florence. He is also member of CCERRI think tank, Zhengzhou, and EURISPES, Laboratorio BRICS, Rome. His latest book is Geofinance and Geopolitics, Egea. Follow him on twitter @fabiomassimos

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