No Room for Kung Flu Fighting

The Covid-19 pandemic has poisoned the U.S.-China relationship and turned it into a Kung Flu blame-game slugfest. Both Presidents Trump and Xi are flexing their negotiating muscles for their own political benefit and survival, playing up to their respective home audience by blaming each other for the pandemic that has infected more than 9 million people and killed more than half a million worldwide.

Pandemics have historically affected international and bilateral relations —  and have undermined a country’s economy and revenue base. The Plague of Justinian in the sixth century, the first recorded pandemic, reduced the population of the Byzantine Empire by 40-50 percent, shattering its dream of re-establishing the old Roman empire.

The Bubonic Plague in the 14th century was a real factor in the decay of the Mongol empire.

The Spanish influenza during World War I, helped the Allies win.

Covid-19 has the markings and makings of a pandemic that can bring down the world’s two largest economies if America and China don’t stop Kung Flu fighting, using the pandemic to displace each other in their geopolitical Game of Thrones.

The U.S.-China relationship is at its lowest point since 1989 in both tone and substance. A hard decoupling is the last thing either country can afford because their economies are too intertwined.

There is no more room for Kung Flu fighting. The Trade War is bad enough. Honoring the commitments made to each other in the phase-one agreement on January 15, is paramount to reviving the dying relationship.

I respectfully disagree with a recent piece Orville Schell, a well known China  watcher wrote, mourning the “death” of the Washington engagement with Beijing. It is ailing and can be cured.

The cure is a fair level playing field. Fair Trade. A new beginning.

But that can wait for now. More important both countries start working together on how to deal with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, because it is coming, with far worse worldwide economic consequences!

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Hawaii earlier this month, is a promising first step to find common ground.

The time is long overdue for both China and the U.S. to resolve their Kung Flu differences and join forces to beat Covid-19, as they ride the free fall waves of the electoral politics Trump and Xi are facing, while they both support each other to stay in power to avoid Armageddon.

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Illustration: Mark Caparosa

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