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The time for “us” working together against new virus

At UN Headquarters in New York, many staff have left the building in order to work at home. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

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Authors: Yang Yizhong and Wang Li

On March 11 in Washington, American President Trump announced that the United States would suspend all travel from Europe (with the U.K. excluded), starting on March 13 and lasting for the next 30 days. The announcement was seen as a sharp departure from his earlier attempts to downplay the threat, as he admitted that the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has rolled past 1,000. With coronavirus outbreak officially declared as a pandemic, schools are closed and Dow continues to plummet. Yet as always, Trump blamed Europe, like he did to China, for not acting quickly enough and contended that US clusters were “seeded” by European travelers.

At the same time, it is reportedly said that China province at center of virus outbreak lets some companies reopen on the same day on March 11.Notwithstanding, the U.S. President, like most of other politicians in the U.S., never forgets to take China as a target to attack or as a scapegoat for their wrongdoing in one way or other. Trump claimed that the coronavirus outbreak started in China and is now spreading throughout the world. Well, his rhetoric was not “wrong” at the first look; but it is inaccurate or even outrageous to define China as the source of the COVID-19 because it is still too early to identify scientifically where the virus originated from.

Like a cowboy in American movie, President Trump did not stop here as he continued to verify his decisions including his sweeping travel restrictions on China and putting in place the first federally mandated quarantine six-weeks ago. He stated that it was due to his early decision to take action against “a foreign virus”, there is fewer cases of the virus in the U.S. than are now present in the EU. In contrary, the worse situation in Europe came out of their failure to take the same precautions and restrict travel, like what the U.S. did, from China and other hot spots. It is a clear message that due to his wise and decisive measures, the United States at a critical time made a life-saving move with early action on China and now on Europe, a new China.

In a few sentences of his address on the virus, Trump mentioned China for three times in a negative and irresponsible way. He seems to forget the warning about one month ago from the director-general of the World Health Organization that it was impossible to predict which direction this epidemic would take. In effect, the head of the WHO reported that it was the steps China had taken that have contained the outbreak at its source appear to have bought the world time.

Yes, no nation could be more stronger or more resilient than the United States. It has the largest economy, the most advanced health care, and the most well-trained doctors, scientists and researchers in the relevant fields. But in a face of the global virus, the U.S. falls into a cold war mentality that it can win alone in the war against COVID-19. The key issue is that in a globalized world today, each country can’t be well-prepared for outbreaks within its own borders. Trump’s slogan of “always put the well-being of America first” is simply unworkable.

It is true that smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow. Yet, it requires collective spirit to work together in a worldwide campaign. The power of the United States is admired highly and universally, but it needs the leadership with high morals. Recently, Joseph Nye Jr. talks about an interesting topic of “Morals Matter”. He argued that although history has proven time and time again that Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity, but in a face of coronavirus pandemic or climate change, the idea of America’s safe behind the borders is nonsense, as Nye noted that virus or pandemic do not respect borders. Accordingly, the U.S. needs to work with other countries to address them.

China is a communist-led country, but it is the second largest economy and a promising nation to rise to the first-class world power. It is wise for the United States to work with China and other countries rather than decoupling on the issue of global governance. Now it is the time for all nations of the world to work together in the fight against the global virus and eventually prevail over it. For sure, there is no an easy solution.

Recently, scholars and experts have tried to rescue the world from the anarchy and confusion. Since the post-Cold War, America has pursue a unipolar world order, in which the U.S. security strategists refused to recognize the concept and practice of the geopolitical sphere of influence. For example, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that “the United States does not recognize spheres of influence.” Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed that “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.”Such pronouncements seem right in that the time and the actors have been reshuffled; yet, they are wrong about the ability and ambition of other powers to demand deference from other states in their own regions or exert predominant control there. Now, with its hegemony fading, the United States has awakened to what it calls “a new era of great-power competition,” with China and Russia increasingly using their power to assert interests and values that often conflict with those of the United States. But American policymakers and analysts are still struggling to come to grips with what this new era means for the U.S. predominant role in the world. Or uni-polarity is over, and a multi-polarity world order might come out.

It is sure that China is not interested in the new era of the sphere of influence, alongside the concept of the Thucydides trap. In contrary, in order to realize the mission of creating a community of shared destiny, at the moment China will continue to use the entire country’s resources and strength into tackling the issue, which is an advantage of China’s socialist system. About 42,600 medics were dispatched to the center of virus from across the country. Academicians, leading experts on respiratory illnesses and infectious diseases, and one-tenth of the country’s intensive care specialists were all called in to the epicenter, according to the National Health Commission. During his recent inspection-trip to Wuhan, Xi said all prevention and control measures have been taken by the CPC Central Committee with the primary focus on preventing more people from being infected and saving more patients’ lives.

Due to the fact that viruses respect no borders in the global village, China has actively cooperated and exchanged information with the WHO and other countries, quickly sharing with them the full genome sequences of the new virus. To help the global fight against the virus, China made a donation to the WHO, provided masks and protective gowns to the Republic of Korea, sent testing kits to Pakistan, Japan, Iran and the African Union, and dispatched experts to Iran. As Xi reiterated that China adheres to the concept of building a community with a shared future for humanity as it actively contributes to safeguarding global public health while going all out to protect its people’s life and health.

In light of the nature of virus and the horrible consequences, it is a global war against the common non-conventional threat to the world. No one can survive alone, but together all nations never fail.

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Americas

Democracy Or What? – And Then Climate

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Most of us were appalled to see what happened in Washington a ten days ago when a ‘mob’, incited by Donald Trump’s address, stormed the Capitol building to prevent the presentation of Joe Biden as the next President. He gave voice to a possible fraudulent (in his mind) election, by putting suspicion on the postal ballot long before the election took place, and tried to ‘engineer’ the ballot by putting his ‘own’ man in control of it. He tried to manipulate the Supreme Court by replacing vacancies with people he expected to follow his lead and must have been disappointed, if not shocked, to find that the court unanimously rejected his claim that the votes had been rigged and should be thrown out. His unruly term of office saw the greatest turnover of people of any previous presidential term as staff could only hack the unusual behaviour of a disordered mind for so long. And so on and on. Much will be written about the 4-year aberration that was Donald Trump. On a lighter note, his escapades in golf have given rise to a book, ‘Commander in Cheat’!

Concerned people have written and spoken about the state of democracy today. Those of us who have spent some time stateside appreciate the immensity of the country, how one is made welcome, but also the prejudices that one finds and the general unknowing of the world we live in by large swathes of the population. Some are still steeped in attitudes that pre-date the civil war. Donald Trump played to all of those and gave them voice. That is a big challenge facing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to get America back on track and if not ‘great again’ to stand up and join the rest of us and share and appreciate that there are billions of other people that are working away with hopes and dreams and looked to the US as a beacon.

That should be the meaning of ‘great again’, and if they can look up and truly be the land of the free and welcome the weak and downtrodden who are fleeing war and violence, as was once the way, then we can say that once more ‘you have earned the right to be the leader of democracy’, and democracy, for all its imperfections, is still the least bad form of government. It is well that the US re-joins the world as totalitarianism, in all its forms and at all levels, is on the rise again. Countries that espouse democracy and heed its precepts need to speak up loudly and be heard once again.

In November of this year is the World Climate Meeting, COP21, in Glasgow, Scotland at which the latest news on climate will be debated. Hopefully, the coronavirus will be on the decline and the US election will no longer be an issue. We can then get together on the one matter that should concentrate all our minds and separate the wheat from the chaff because there is some said that is wrong that muddies the waters, and leads the politicians to make incorrect decisions. But change is around us.

Climate is a highly complex issue, arguably the most complicated, that not all the modelling can get right, but study must go on. It is strange that it has only come to our notice since the population of the world over the past 60 years, has increased dramatically from approaching 3 billion to 8 billion. Mankind has thus significantly increased breeding himself, and thus his use of natural resources, for example cutting down trees, which need carbon dioxide to live, and vastly increased the pollution of the seas and the seas cover 70% of the planet. It has only been in comparatively recent times that we have started to pay attention to the seas and are alarmed at what we see.

However, we have the tools to put things right. We just need the will and ability to spend money wisely.

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Americas

A Disintegrating Trump Administration?

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If Donald J. Trump wanted a historic presidency, he certainly seems to have achieved it — he is now the only president to have been impeached twice.

According to the rules, the House impeaches followed by a trial in the Senate.  There is precedent for the trial to continue even when the office holder has left office.  Should that trial result in conviction, it prevents him from seeking any future elected office.  Conviction is unlikely, however, as it requires a vote of two-thirds of the members present.

It has been reported that Trump wanted to lead the crowd in the march to the Capitol, but was dissuaded from doing so by the Secret Service who considered it much too dangerous and could not guarantee his safety.

Various sources attest that Trump’s mind is focused on pardons including himself and his family members.  Whether it is legal for him to pardon himself appears to be an unresolved question.  But then Trump enjoys pushing the boundaries of tolerated behavior while his businesses skirt legal limits.

He appears to have been greatly upset with his longtime faithful vice-president after a conversation early on the day of the riot.  As reported by The New York Times, he wanted Mike Pence to overturn the vote instead of simply certifying it as is usual.  The certification is of course a formality after the state votes already certified by the governors have been reported.  Pence is reputed to have said he did not have the power to do so.  Since then Trump has called Vice President Pence a “pussy” and expressed great disappointment in him although there are reports now that fences have been mended.

Trump’s response to the mob attacking the Capitol has also infuriated many, including lawmakers who cowered in the House chamber fearful for their lives.  Instead of holding an immediate press conference calling on the attackers to stop, Trump responded through a recorded message eight hours later.  He called on his supporters to go home but again repeated his claims of a fraudulent election.

Aside from headlining the US as the laughingstock among democracies across the world, the fall-out includes a greater security risk for politicians.  Thus the rehearsal for Biden’s inauguration scheduled for Sunday has been postponed raising questions about the inauguration itself on January 20th.

Worse, the Trump White House appears to be disintegrating as coordination diminishes and people go their own way.  Secretary of State Pompeo has unilaterally removed the curbs on meeting Taiwanese officials put in place originally to mollify China.  If it angers China further, it only exacerbates Biden’s difficulties in restoring fractured relationships. 

Trump is causing havoc as he prepares to leave the White House.  He seems unable to face losing an election and departing with grace.  At the same time, we have to be grateful to him for one major policy shift.  He has tried to pull the country out of its wars and has not started a new one.  He has even attempted the complicated undertaking of peace in Afghanistan, given the numerous actors involved.  We can only hope Biden learned enough from the Obama-Biden administration’s disastrous surge to be able to follow the same path.

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Americas

Flames of Globalization in the Temple of Democracy

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Authors: Alex Viryasov and Hunter Cawood

On the eve of Orthodox Christmas, an angry mob stormed the “temple of democracy” on Capitol Hill. It’s hard to imagine that such a feat could be deemed possible. The American Parliament resembles an impregnable fortress, girdled by a litany of security checks and metal detectors at every conceivable point of entry. And yet, supporters of Donald Trump somehow found a way.

In the liberal media, there has been an effort to portray them as internal terrorists. President-elect Joe Biden called his fellow citizens who did not vote for him “a raging mob.” The current president, addressing his supporters, calls to avoid violence: “We love you. You are special. I can feel your pain. Go home.”

That said, what will we see when we look into the faces of these protesters? A blend of anger and outrage. But what is behind that indignation? Perhaps it’s pain and frustration. These are the people who elected Trump president in 2016. He promised to save their jobs, to stand up for them in the face of multinational corporations. He appealed to their patriotism, promised to make America great again. Arguably, Donald Trump has challenged the giant we call globalization.

Today, the United States is experiencing a crisis like no other. American society hasn’t been this deeply divided since the Vietnam War. The class struggle has only escalated. America’s heartland with its legions of blue-collar workers is now rebelling against the power of corporate and financial elites. While Wall Street bankers or Silicon Valley programmers fly from New York to London on private jets, an Alabama farmer is filling up his old red pickup truck with his last Abraham Lincoln.

The New York banker has no empathy for the poor residing in the southern states, nothing in common with the coal miners of West Virginia. He invests in the economies of China and India, while his savings sit quietly in Swiss banks. In spirit, he is closer not to his compatriots, but to fellow brokers and bankers from London and Brussels. This profiteer is no longer an American. He is a representative of the global elite.

In the 2020 elections, the globalists took revenge. And yet, more than 70 million Americans still voted for Trump. That represents half of the voting population and more votes than any other Republican has ever received. A staggering majority of them believe that they have been deceived and that Democrats have allegedly rigged this election.

Democrats, meanwhile, are launching another impeachment procedure against the 45th president based on a belief that it has been Donald Trump himself who has provoked this spiral of violence. Indeed, there is merit to this. The protesters proceeded from the White House to storm Congress, after Trump urged them on with his words, “We will never give up, we will never concede.”

As a result, blood was shed in the temple of American democracy. The last time the Capital was captured happened in 1814 when British troops breached it. However, this latest episode, unlike the last, cannot be called a foreign invasion. This time Washington was stormed by protestors waving American flags.

Nonetheless, it is not an exaggeration to say that the poor and downtrodden laborers of America’s Rust Belt currently feel like foreigners in their own country. The United States is not unique in this sense. The poor and downtrodden represent a significant part of the electorate in nearly every country that has been affected by globalization. As a result, a wave of populism is sweeping democratic countries. Politicians around the world are appealing to a sense of national identity. Is it possible to understand the frustrated feelings of people who have failed to integrate into the new global economic order? Absolutely. It’s not too dissimilar from the grief felt by a seamstress who was left without work upon the invention of the sewing machine.

Is it worth trying to resist globalization as did the Luddites of the 19th century, who fought tooth and nail to reverse the inevitability of the industrial revolution? The jury is still out.

The world is becoming more complex and stratified. Economic and political interdependence between countries is growing each and every day. In this sense, globalization is progress and progress is but an irreversible process.

Yet, like the inhumane capitalism of the 19th century so vividly described in Dickens’ novels, globalization carries many hidden threats. We must recognize and address these threats. The emphasis should be on the person, his dignity, needs, and requirements. Global elites in the pursuit of power and superprofits will continue to drive forward the process of globalization. Our task is not to stop or slow them down, but to correct global megatrends so that the flywheel of time does not grind ordinary people to the ground or simply throw nation-states to the sidelines of history.

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