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Is Trump right to take China on?

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No matter the world has hundred and one grievances against Donald J Trump, as leader of the free world, for upending the existing world order, it owes a lot to Trump for calling out China as only he can, in the wake of ‘Wuhan Virus’ (as he has called it). Trump must be furious. The US economy was booming. Unemployment rate across the Whites, African-American community, Hispanics and other immigrants was at its lowest. The stock market was on a record high. Donald Trump had trumped and impeached his opponents in their impeachment motion in Ukraine gate. The Robert Mueller Report running to over 400 pages on Russian influence on Trump Campaign in 2016, did not move a needle. Donald J Trump was well poised and positioned to seek re election in Nov, 2020.

Enter the’Wuhan Virus’ or ‘China Virus’ as Trump has defiantly christened it, despite a World Health Organisation diktat. Over one lakh lives have been lost in the United States and nearly 15 lakhs are Covid19 afflicted. The world over, 6 million are affected and 3,73,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins Hospital data compilation.

While the viral curve is flattening in New York, it is spiking in Wisconsin and Alabama. All 50 States are under the weather with this Pandemic. The booming economy zooming to stratosphere, is suddenly doomed to plunge the depths. 40 million Americans have registered for unemployment dole and notwithstanding the over $2 trillion rescue and recovery package, small businesses are folding like nine pins. Chapter XI Bankruptcy embrace threatens commercial entities, doing well just three months before.

Trump is a worried man. His administration described as ‘chaotic’ by Bob Woodward, he of the Washington Post twin Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame, at the best of times, is now ‘struggling to remain in balance’ as Thomas Friedman puts it. In fact, Trump administration never settled down in the past over three years, as it was a revolving door policy for top positions as Secretary of State, White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defence, Press Secretary, with several other critical positions remaining unfilled. There is a new book out ‘Trumpapocalypse’ by David Frum, Staff Writer with The Atlantic, adding to his discomfiture.

In such a scenario, the spread of Viral Pandemic ‘has brought the American economy to its wobbly knees’ as a commentator put it. No wonder, Trump is furious that warts and all, his economy was strong and thunderous and in its backdrop, re election was a given. Now, the democratic ‘would be nominee’ for President, Joe Biden is reported to be leading in national polls, and coming close even in swing States that matter for an electoral college triumph.

Donald J Trump, who was effusive in his praise for Xi Jinping, Chinese premier, ‘my good friend’ for handling the virus, even as late as Jan 24, 2020, has pivoted a full 180 degrees to hold China ‘wholly responsible for this world wide viral spread due to undeniable malfeasance of Chinese authorities’. Chinese assertion of authoritarian instincts over Hong Kong has exacerbated the United States anger and rage. China is aware of the anger and anguish generated by their failure to come clean on the viral spread, as early as possible. They are therefore hell bent on deflecting the world’s attention through intentional border skirmishes with India, instigating Nepal and Pakistan to indulge in pinpricks, activity on South China Sea, needling Taiwan et al. It is typical Chinese tactics to try and take the eye balls from the ‘Wuhan Virus’ devastating deathly dance.

 

The fact that WHO was perceived to be soft on China, as the present numero uno was their nominee, is not helping either. WHO played ball with initial Chinese view that ‘ it did not show human to human transmission faculties’ as in a WHO tweet, now pulled down, has infuriated Trump no end now. Trump has accused WHO of playing partisan Pandemic politics to mollycoddle China, and has withdrawn contributions to , $450 million (as against China’s measly $40 millions) WHO. China, Trump has pointed out was contributing ten times lesser than US of A but exerting ‘maximum influence of convenience’. Trump has indicated that special trade and currency equations with Hong Kong would now be withdrawn. It is no longer empty rhetoric, for it seems so eerie but real.

It seems that the World’s War of Virus is transforming into a War on China for the spread of the virus. Documentaries on social media on the Deadly Secret of the Coronavirus , including by CNN International, all, have gone viral. The air is thick with China hate and except the most obvious few, including our friendly neighbour Pakistan, no other country is willing to say a good word on China. Australia is on the war path too and the WHO led investigation into the origins of the Virus from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, spells trouble to China. China has always played smart politics remaining inscrutable and pretty much having their way in international world order. The viral spread has exposed the chinks in the Chinese armoury and their self-aggrandising attitude even over Personal Protective Equipment’ by cornering the export market in January, 2020, has not gone unnoticed.

Trump has gone ballistic. His bellicose utterances are typically reflective of America First retinue. Would he stay the course? Or he has raised a feverish pitch, so that he can negotiate a sweet trade deal with China, just in time for Nov,2020 elections. Who knows? But, for now Trump is leading not America but is seen as the megaphone to make China pay a price, for delayed reporting or suppression of the truth or whatever they are guilty of. The world seems inclined to trumpet the Trumpisms as the despair of death and destruction is overwhelming as China seems unable to wash its hands off the consequences of the viral spread.

 

While China has literally smashed the viral curve and miraculously confined it to Wuhan, the world is grappling it, all over the place and unable to overcome the economic pitfalls too. The least that China owes, is an apology, if not reparations for their ‘negligence and neglect’, if not anything more sinister. Trump has led the charge and the world seems willing to lend a hand, even if Trump otherwise does not deserve any leg up. It is felt that China has gotten its own way for far too long. Its economy seems to have isolated itself from the calamitous world wide impact and it is quite mysterious in an interdependent and not mere interconnected globalised economy. Is this the Tiananmen moment which fizzled out, morphing into a more impactful Wuhan moment? Has China bitten or spread more than it can chew or contain? Or typically, the two leading economic powerhouses, China and US of A would get together for their own selfish constructs? Or we are at an inflection point when the world at large would at last get together to tell China like it is, as it ought to be? Watch this space.

(Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan- Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

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