Controlling Covid-19 and its Origin: A Tale of Two cities.

By Allawi Ssemanda and Shemei Ndawula

 

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” a phrase from the Victorian dystopian novels ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens. This phrase can also be seen to apply to the two largest economies in the world in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the past two years the world has been ravaged by the pandemic bringing global economies to their knees. Arguably, in context of containing covid-19 pandemic, the People’s Republic of China is among countries that have largely emerged as the world leaders in fighting this pandemic; first with its rigorous domestic campaign to neutralize the virus within its borders setting benchmarks for the world with its massive treatment center projects and citizen relief during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the United States of America (U.S) first responded to the pandemic through what many analysts described as denial, then dismissal, panic, disputing science logic and now they are looking for a scapegoat to cover own inadequacies. A deeper analysis of this; one can argue that China has proven a timely ally of many; first with the timely aid – providing aid to various governments with equipments necessary for containing the virus as well as restructuring loans to various economies. Needless to say, China is currently at the forefront of the Covid-19 vaccination not only in Africa but the wider Global north donating several million vaccine doses on top of pledging support to the COVAX initiative aimed at providing vaccines to developing countries.

In contrast, the U.S first chose to hoard most of its domestic vaccines whilst critiquing Beijing for the so-called vaccine diplomacy. Consequently, Washington which often branded Beijing’s diplomats of practicing the so-called “wolf diplomacy” because of their assertiveness, it has now adopted what seems to be “blackmail diplomacy” as a major element amplifying the theories around Coronavirus origins with some people in Biden administration going against the position of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and scientists who support world health organization’s (WHO) first results contending a natural origin to the virus. Indeed, president Biden gave U.S’ CIA 90 days to ‘look into the possibility’ of the virus having originated from a lab in Wuhan, which rises several questions;

Why America? First, we are aware there’s’ an earlier comprehensive investigation into the origins of the Coronavirus headed by the WHO which concluded that; the possibility of the virus having originated from a lab is “highly unlikely”. Considering the fact that in WHO report, a follow up research was indicated to look into the possibility of there being an intermediary species in the transfer of Coronavirus from bats to humans, isn’t it redundant carrying out both investigations parallel to each other?

Why the lab theory? Most of the evidence quoted by believers of the lab theory is quite circumstantial due to the presence of the viral research institute in Wuhan. In addition, there’s been proven research into natural transfer in the previous SARs viruses that have broken out so it would be incredulous to abandon such precedent for an unproven theory especially if was rendered highly improbable by the world mandated body (WHO).

As Carl Sagan, a renown American scientist taught us; “the suppression of uncomfortable ideas maybe common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science.” In the wake of Covid-19, American leadership ignored health experts and scientists’ advice in favor of politics. As China aggressively adhered to health experts’ and scientist’s advice such as wearing masks and tight lockdown which temporarily made several Chinese cities empty for several weeks, Washington opted to playdown efforts China employed branding them draconian despite scientific proof that these methods like lockdown and wearing mask were very effective.  An argument can therefore be made that after ignoring science and health experts’ logic and embracing political game(s) in containing Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S which is recovering from covid-19 wreckage must find someone to blame for the death of over 600,000 Americans who would have probably survived had Washington swallowed pride and followed science and “draconian measures” China employed in containing the virus.

Since Covid-19 hit the U.S, politicians in Washington have always tried to find who to blame. As the world raced to develop coronavirus vaccines, some politicians in the U.S were busy blaming China for what they called stealing of their knowledge in vaccine development despite showing zero proof. It was actually partly this issue that saw Trump administration closing China’s Consulate in Houston, Texas. When China produced their Covid-19 vaccines, because Beijing had already contained local transmission at home, and in what could be Xi Jinping’s cherished ideology of a shared prosperity for mankind, China decided to distribute vaccines to almost all countries especially in developing countries. This happened as the U.S and some other developed countries embraced vaccine nationalism by buying and booking all future productions for their citizens, leaving all developing countries to survive arguably on China’s mercy as Beijing supplied them with several tens of thousands of their vaccines. Surprisingly, Washington branded this gesture political, so-called China’s vaccines diplomacy.

Put differently, the U.S has always been ready to discredit China’s efforts not just in containing the spread of coronavirus but from measures of containing virus spreading, vaccine development, vaccine distribution and now after failing, they are trying to change the narrative by taking over WHO’s ongoing duty of investigating coronavirus origins. Such confusion reveals a disconnect with one country seemingly having so much to say about the virus and another (China) having so much to do about the virus, hence, a tale of two cities.

To sum it up, president Biden’s ordered inquiry in origins of covid-19 is nothing but political and blaming China, president Biden is reading Donald Trump’s old playbook – blame China for all your failures, your support back home will rise. What’s clear is that Americans are more divided than ever along political lines. Last year, Republican Party polling consistently indicated that “China-bashing” was very popular among Trump supporters that at one time, top republican officials indicated that “blame-China” theme could help Trump get re-elected since it was one of major tricks that could help offsetting some of the disdain several Americans had for his poor handling of the country’s COVID-19 crisis. It can be argued that president Biden knows that Trump had over 74 million supporters who voted him in 2020 elections. To please them and probably bring them to his side, it is possible that Biden believes doing what they like to hear (bashing China) will see them switch allegiance to him which would be a political score. Therefore, no matter diplomatic words Biden administration put behind his ordered CIA inquiry on origins of Coronavirus, the move is nothing but a cobweb of politics.

Allawi Ssemanda and Shemei Ndawula are Research Fellows at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy think tank.

Politicizing Covid-19 on global stage is very dangerous.

By Allawi Ssemanda.

In 1907, then United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States of America (US), Lord Bryce is quoted to have observed; “The subject of foreign policy in the United States is like the subject of snakes in Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland.” This statement has been described by several foreign policy scholars to have meant that in the US, foreign policy making has no style, and a designed process but rather national interests which is purely politics of promoting US’ global hegemony.

Indeed, after several hours of closed-door meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin on 16th June, 2021, US president Joe Biden told journalists that there are no secret codes to foreign policy, that it is all about personal relationships, and about human nature. In the same week, shortly after the G7 summit in the United Kingdom, president Biden told journalists that he had given Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 90 days to investigate the origin of Coronavirus. Biden supported this arguing that in the US, there are two elements of the intelligence community one believing the virus had a natural origin while the other leaned towards a lab leak theory.

Important to note is that while president Biden ordered CIA led inquiry on origins of Coronavirus, an on-the-ground investigation lead by experts from World Health Organization (WHO), a body mandated to carry out such inquires earlier this year concluded their phase one findings, observing that it was “extremely unlikely” that coronavirus started in a laboratory.   Upon this background, one can reason that with WHO primary report out and their investigations ongoing, any country to announce a parallel investigation lead by political appointees should not only worry us but inspire us to ask more questions.

As Indira Ghandi taught us, questioning is the basis of all progress, and those who don’t question are condemned to live in bondage. With that in mind, we must question president Biden’s intentions and interest in ordering a parallel inquiry.  Is it that the Biden administration does not trust WHO which the US joined on his first day in office after reversing his predecessor’s decision to withdraw U.S membership? How can we trust CIA report which receives orders from only Washington? Whose interest will their report be? Is President Biden continuing Trump era policy of America first which he often denounced for Isolating the US from international community? Is he declaring that anything done by international experts but without full say and control of the US is null and void?  Is it that the US knows the origins of Corona virus and want to influence the findings to hide those “facts”? These are some of questions that we should put before the US for their uncalled-for path. There are several reasons to look at the move with scepticism;

First and foremost, president Biden’s ordered inquiry exposes hypocrisy in Washington and casts doubt in their readiness to support the world in confronting the pandemic. It should be recalled that shortly after taking over office, president Biden wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) withdrawing his predecessors’ decision to withdraw US’ membership from WHO. It was actually on his first day in office when he wrote and informed UN SG that; “The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization, …the WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly covid-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security.  The United States will continue to be a full participant…,” read his letter in parts.  Isn’t it surprising that just months later, the president is discrediting the very organization he praised?

Secondary, during his campaigns and his first days in office, president Biden promised the world that “America is Back” as he criticised his predecessor, Donald Trump of Isolating the U.S from international community which is exactly what he is doing by setting a parallel investigation against international community supported inquiry which is ongoing under WHO.

The other important issue we should note is that CIA which president Biden ordered to do investigations cannot be trusted to do an independent investigation free from lies and political influence. For example, during a Q&A discussion at Texas A&M university on 15th April 2019, then Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, told his audience that; “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole… we had entire training courses.” After an outburst of laughter from his audience, secretary Pompeo added: “It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.” With Pompeo’s admission’s that at CIA lying, stealing and cheating are part of their “training courses,” one wonders if their inquiry won’t be full of lies. It is not a surprise that the weapons of mass destruction CIA told the world that Iraq had to date cannot be traced.

All the above points at one key factor; politics. The U.S has always wanted to appear superior in global affairs. Put differently, they suffer from Libido dominandi, a Latin or the urge to dominate everything that they see a WHO lead inquiry with experts may not give exactly what they want. When covid-19 broke out, as Beijing took tough steps in containing the spread of the virus, Washington branded their efforts draconian measures. Instead of learning from measures China employed in containing the coronavirus, the US chose denial and as tens of thousands of people lost lives to covid-19, some pundits and politicians started blame game possibly to divert people from critiquing their weakness in containing the virus. After assuming office, president Biden promised to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days – a figure they missed. Instead of focusing on producing more vaccines and supporting efforts to contain the spread of the virus not just in the U.S but also in developing world, Biden administration is now choosing to concentrate on finding origin of coronavirus – work which is already in progress by respectable and mandated organization, WHO. Could it be that the administration is trying to hide from their failure to deliver on vaccinating 100 million people in 100 days? 

Lastly, according to Dominic Dwyer, an Australian immunologist and a member of WHO’s team of expert, there is no evidence backing the “lab leak” theory and lab leak narrative is political and plays in interests of some countries.  From the views above, a conclusion can be made that as president Biden announced that “America is back,” let Washington come back joining the world in fighting the spread of covid-19 by supporting other countries by making vaccines readily available, and supporting research and science.

Allawi Ssemanda is a Research Fellow with Development Watch Centre; a foreign policy think tank.

 

 

Biden Can Redefine U.S-China Policy; But he Must Avoid Doubling Down Trump’s Predominance in Asia.

Analysis by Allawi Ssemanda and Aziz Kalisa.

Vice President Joe Biden talks with Chinese Vice President Xi and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during a luncheon at the State Department, in Washington, DC, February 14, 2012. Curtesy Photo.

For a number of years, United Sates of America (U.S) and China relations has been worsening. Issues ranging from trade, technology, alleged influence peddling, military activities and human rights have always been cited as catalyst for animosity between Washington and Beijing.

Several analysts contend that whereas the origins of this undoubtedly destructive animosity have been in existence for several years, many argue that under the Trump administration, it has greatly worsened to unprecedented levels, on many occasions involving what some viewed as demonising rhetorics from Washington targeting Beijing,  with overly exaggerated and clearly inaccurate assessment(s) of the so-called serious threat Beijing poses to the U.S and allies, giving Trump’s Whitehouse an opportunity to continuously announce sanctions and threats against Beijing. Whether Trump administration’s claims of eminent threats from Beijing are right or otherwise, Trump’s response has always been excessive, political, feckless and largely self-defeating especially his trade traffics against China.

Upon critical analysis of remarks and the known policy position of president elect, Joe Biden, his political associates and those of Democratic Party, as night follows day, one can argue that a Biden presidency is very likely to correct many of Trump’s glaring and egregious mistakes while dealing with Beijing. However, this doesn’t guarantee we will see a total change ending Washington’s bipartisan shift seen in recent years identifying Beijing as U. S’ grand competitor.

However, there is much hope that gone will be the obvious over-the-top ideological rhetoric, endless wee hours tweets and provoking hints suggesting the need for regime change. An argument can be made that the Trump administration’s failure to understand that there is need for the two world’s leading economies to cooperate on key issues such as controlling pandemics, climate change and other crude policy excuses were overly ineffective and costly on key issues like the much-needed trade relations and technology decoupling.

Washington with a more professional and well-coordinated policy processes, a president that is willing to read and absorb briefings of intelligence community and take experts advice, we can predict that gone will be the contradiction and chaos of a Commander in Chief who conducts policy through tweets. Put differently, Biden administration is likely to act more professional, balanced, and arguably, it will try to avoid trade tariffs and decoupling and embrace dialogue.

Yes, all the above really sounds great. However, the real hurdle is seen when we dive into details, and arguably, such clearly called-for redefining and amendments by the new administration to U.S’ China policy will most likely find it hard to redefine and address some other more fundamental realities in regard to bilateral power relations, key being the U.S. leverage Washington hawks may want to see especially America’s position in the entire Asian region.

Presently, the U.S is a deeply divided country as a result of their November 3rd messy presidential elections. History has it that whenever U.S leaders want to unite Americans, leaders always come up with an issue to bring together all Americans under the so-called rally around the flag. Pondering at this, a few questions come up: Will the new Biden Administration follow Trump’s path of demonising and blaming China, referring to Beijing as U.S’ existential threat and the current global order, hence move on justifying worst case assumptions on virtually all China related policies?

Some analysts argue that this is a tact often employed by both Republicans and Democrats in their effort to scare American people so as to get their support for huge defence budgets as well as more unthoughtful and draconian policies toward China. The notion that China is a threat to the U.S and the world order is definitely entirely unjustified. On many occasions, Chinese president Xi Jinping has been clear that China ‘will not seek to dominate’, secondly, at present, analysts believe Beijing is not interested in war since it would disrupt their long plans of economic development. Also, Beijing is not interested in disrupting the current world order as some hawks in Washington contend, this is largely because it is the same order that Beijing has navigated to move to the top. This is evidenced with China’s continued support to the current Global order, such as at the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, World Bank among others.

Upon that background, one can confidently say the fears Washington often talks about that Beijing poses are inaccurate, and grossly exaggerated. This lays a foundation for a second question: Will president Biden appreciate such facts and accurately define where and how China is a threat to Washington as some hawks claim? Such an approach will present Washington in a more sober and pragmatic stance and hence, possibly ease relations and any dealings with Beijing. Other than this, the Biden presidency risks being swallowed with unsubstantiated characterisation at Capitol Hill who believe in Libido dominand concept and back those who don’t believe in a fair competition which will prioritise nothing but a zero-sum game, move with containment methods instead of the much needed constructive forms of engagement which would bring positive results for both.

The other key question is: will Biden administration accept the new bitter reality that gone is the era of Unipolar when the U.S enjoyed military dominance across maritime areas of Asia and such an era will certainly not return in the near future? It is important to note that U.S politicians at Capitol Hill – both republicans and democrats still reflexively boast of America’s military might and the supposed necessity of the U.S to maintain unchanged level of their military dominance in the region of the Asian Pacific while moving to China’s borders as they claim their so-called “freedom of action” in the area. Arguably, one can conclude that it is naïve of Capitol Hill politicians to maintain that poorly conceived notion – that U.S military predominance can help to ensure order, and it is also delusional to imagine that the U.S has that much needed financial muscle of ensuring they retain the kind of military prowess very close to China as they wish to.

The open secret is that the world is headed to a de facto balance of power in Western Pacific between U.S and respective allies on one hand and China on the other. The trouble is that by nature, such balances often are risky – tempting each side to test its strength and leverage. In this case, the issue of Taiwan and Chinese maritime disputes with the United States and her allies may become a reality. However, if the Biden administration approach to the Taiwan question respecting China’s one country policy, arguably, Washington and Beijing will enjoy good relations.

It is upon this background that the new administration in Washington should recognise this strategic shift in the region and the likely negative implications it pauses should Washington politicians insist with their now fruitless efforts of retaining U.S predominance in the region. The most available short- and long-term remedy here is for the Biden administration to ensure Capitol Hill politicians swallow their pride, and transition from defensive and denial-oriented structures, drop the self-given responsibility of policing the region and allow their allies like Japan to own their security, and embrace dialogue with Beijing. Through dialogue, the two sides can initiate a strategic civil-military dialogue through which effective and crisis management mechanism can be established to avoid any future confrontations on issues like South China Sea and the Taiwan Question.

In conclusion, the Biden administration may consider adjusting America’s political alliances in the region, this in the long run will help them realise a positive-sum engagement across the region Beijing inclusive which will help them realise an overall stability and economic growth. When deeply analysed, an uncombative and less military-driven U.S that is willing to cooperate while listening and respecting Beijing’s concern’s in the region will give the above views a chance to thrive and hence the said stable balance, thereby giving the two powers an opportunity of ensuring peace and stable economic development both in the region and beyond compared to the current form of relationship which is a form of contestation for total supremacy. If all the above is considered, the authors believe it will give the Biden administration an opportunity to address the questions we raised earlier and help the U.S to meet some of their interest with regard to China instead of simply trying to right the incompetences left by Trump administration.

 

Allawi Ssemanda is a senior Research Fellow at Development Watch Centre with focus on Global Governance, Foreign Policy

Aziz Kalisa is a Ugandan Lawyer and Research Fellow at Development Watch Centre.

 

DWC

Development Watch Centre

Kampala - Uganda

ADDRESS

Plot 212, RTG Plaza,3rd Floor, Office Number C7 - Hoima Road, Rubaga

CONTACT

+256 703 380252

info@dwcug.org

FOLLOW US
© DWC - All rights reserved - Cookies Policy - Privacy Policy