Biden faces daunting test to ‘slaughter’ coronavirus
Published: Jan 24, 2021 04:33 PM

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The US has sworn in the new administration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who have pledged to unite all Americans to fight the COVID-19 crisis head-on, and to pull the distressed country out of a national catastrophe, no less serious than the Great Depression in the early 1930s. 

It is a drastic test falling on Biden's team, and the test will be closely watched by the world. How he handles the public health crisis will set the tone for how his administration will be viewed. The upside is that vaccines are being produced and inoculations are on the way. The downside is that new and more infectious mutant variants coming from Britain, South Africa and elsewhere may cause extraordinary uncertainty around winning the war against this invisible enemy in 2021. 

A new and entirely different leadership at the White House is to bring the world's most powerful country rising hope. Since Biden's January 20 inauguration, many American people are sighing with relief after getting through four sluggish years of Donald Trump, on whose watch more than 400,000 people succumbed to the virus due to his incompetence and dereliction of duty. 

American social fabric was increasingly fragmented and polarized because of Trump's extremist and radical economic policies which favor the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor. Racism has also reared its ugly head in the US, fermented by Trump, who appalled the world by instigating his supporters to storm the US congress on January 6.

In sharp contrast, President Biden seems to be a leader of empathy and conscience with a clear mission. He has said that until Americans defeat the pandemic, there will be no economic recovery in the US, millions of Americans will remain jobless, and millions more will suffer, die or get sick. 

Months ago, the world heard the narcissistic and lumbering Trump declare that the virus will one day miraculously disappear in the US, and at another time, he claimed that he would bear no responsibility for the spreading virus which was taking a growing toll in the US. In the end, the world, astonishingly, saw him spend his time on the golf course while many hospitals were overwhelmed with agonized patients.

A few Chinese media commentators describe Biden's rush to sign 17 executive orders on his inauguration day to undo his predecessor's dictates as hastening and restless, but the new president earnestly had no time to waste, for he is facing a nightmarish mess left over from Trump. Biden has a mountain on his shoulders, and he needs to act quickly.

Biden has signed a flurry of orders aimed at creating a centralized authority - as China has - to combat the coronavirus, including bolstering the production of vaccines, pharmaceutical treatments, and medical-grade protective gear, and strengthening the mask-wearing mandate. Biden is also making Dr. Anthony Fauci the leading scientist at the White House to advise in anti-pandemic work. Letting the science speak and decide is what China has done too and helped China to stifle the spread of the virus.

Biden's plan also includes invoking the Defense Production Act to expand vaccine and medicine supplies, creating a "pandemic testing board" to help expand access to virus testing, writing new guidelines to protect workers, reopening schools, and pledging that state governments using National Guard troops to accelerate vaccinations will be reimbursed by the federal government. 

Now, seeing all the practical measures being meted out by the Biden administration, some Americans have written on social media platforms that they are finding tears welling up in their eyes, because they have finally "ushered in" a new president who has got a plan to fight the once-in-a-century pandemic. 

By all metrics, Biden's is a plan based on truth and science, unlike Trump's way of blustering through twitter storms.

"History is going to measure whether we are up to the task," Biden said to reporters on Thursday. "For the past year, we couldn't rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination that the nation needed, as we have seen the tragic cost of that failure."

President Biden has described his approach as a "full-scale wartime effort" to save more Americans from the deadly virus, though his medical advisors forecast that 100,000 more will die before April. The country is facing a shortfall of manufacturing capacity to increase immediate supply of vaccines, and it will be a significant move if the Biden administration seeks the help of other countries to accelerate vaccine rollout, including from China, the world's largest manufacturing base. 

The previous Trump administration listed China as America's strategic adversary and launched a relentless trade and technology war for the purpose of impeding China's economic growth. Trump's policy seriously frayed the most important bilateral relations in the world, and China's retaliatory tariffs have hurt American companies and families too. It is time for the Biden government to rethink the relationship and repeal the hardline confrontational approach of Trump. Only when the US and China re-engage, reconcile and cooperate, will the world see real progress in defeating the virus, curbing the climate change and recovering parallel growth. 

The author is an editor with the Global Times.
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