Sen. Ben Sasse should be aware talking big won’t restore US global leadership
Published: May 18, 2021 09:51 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

No other country than the US and its politicians judge the others by itself. The US and its politicians shouldn't forget that not long ago they maliciously lashed out at China which they claimed used "vaccine diplomacy" to gain global influence in this pandemic-stricken world. But now they cannot resist the temptation of using this very same tactic to make up for the much riddled global influence of the US.

This temptation is reflected in a Wall Street Journal article written by Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska. The article claimed that it is the US, not China, that can end the COVID-19 pandemic. It called on the US to adopt vaccine diplomacy which is "a genuine once-in-a-generation opportunity to show the world what U.S. leadership looks like." The article seems to be echoing the news that the US will ship 80 million doses of vaccines abroad by the end of June. 

The article attributed part of the reasons for the spread of the pandemic to that of "the Chinese Communist Party being apathetic about other nations' health." But the fact is China is the first country that has successfully controlled the pandemic and shared its experiences with other countries plagued by the pandemic. The expansion of the pandemic in the US and some Western countries only has their arrogance and ideological prejudice over China and the inaction of their own government to blame. The article said, "The Chinese alternative - a system of state-sponsored mismanagement, deception and coercion - has shown itself to be not only a failure, but a failure big enough to infect the globe." But it is crystal clear to the world the anti-virus fight of which country is a failure that drags the world and which country presents the world mismanagement, deception and coercion.

The article also claimed that the US vaccines spread rapidly worldwide because "the U.S. cares for the health of our neighbors around the globe." But the premise is that COVID-19 vaccinations have finally showed some effects to stem the pandemic tide in the US. Don't forget how the US treated its allies. The US hoarding of vaccines triggered discontent from even its closest European allies. In March, the White House spokesperson said, "there have been requests around the world, of course, from a number of countries who have requested doses from the United States, and we have not provided doses from the US government to anyone." It was only when China and a number of other countries pledged to help that made the US feel the pressure. Did the US make some gestures? Is this the attitude countries around the globe expect from the US?

Zhang Tengjun, an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times Tuesday that the opinion of Sasse reveals what most US politicians think. 

"They deeply know that the anti-virus fight in their country is lagging behind, so they must find a lever to make up for it - vaccine. They have a strong sense of winning, so they choose a field they are good at, which is strategic competition and politicization. By touting vaccine diplomacy, they are indulging in spiritual victory," Zhang said.

The performance of US politicians has reached new lows in international relations practices. They are not focused on fighting the pandemic, but containing China and engaging in strategic competition with China. What is on their minds is nothing but strategic benefits brought about by US hegemony and global influence. US vaccine diplomacy is based on competition with countries like China, rather than for the sake of global public health as US politicians boasted. When the US shows care for a country, it means the country owes the US a favor and risks being used as a pawn. This is proven by what Sasse said in his article, "Every person who accepts an American vaccine should know exactly where it came from." 

Zhang said that in terms of America First, the Biden administration is no different from Trump's. Among 80 million vaccine shots the US pledges to share, 60 million are what the Americans dare not use themselves. No matter Biden or US politicians, they cannot dodge the fact that the US is a selfish country that disregards the lives of others. By contrast, China has promised its vaccines are global public goods and put its words into action. It provides pandemic assistance to countries around the world, including those it has disputes with. 

The current global pandemic situation is partly attributable to the lack of US global leadership. In the Trump era, the US did not engage in fighting the virus and withdrew from the World Health Organization. In the Biden era, the US is immersed in vaccine selfishness. The US cannot reshape its global leadership with lying. China welcomes it if the US takes real action to compete with China in providing global public goods. But if the US just talks big, it will continue to be the laughing stock of the world.