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Callous exploitation of epidemic

By Hannay Richards | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-15 09:49

Speaking of China's unprecedented efforts to contain the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, including the quarantining of many cities in hard-hit Hubei province, the director-general of the World Health Organization stressed recently that,"If it weren't for China's efforts, the number of cases outside China would have been very much higher."

Given that the epidemic in China, if not contained, would have the potential to become a global pandemic, it would have been natural to assume that countries would come together to try and forestall the foreseen dangers, and so rally to help China in its efforts to contain the virus.

But rather than acknowledging the efforts of the Chinese people, who are enduring very real trials and tribulations at the moment, some in the West have chosen to speak ill of China and its people.

Instead of behaving as responsible stakeholders in the international community, they have brushed aside the evidence that such a risk could emerge pretty much anywhere, and have sought to portray the virus as a malevolent agent with Chinese characteristics.

Employing insulting caricatures and the staples of the ideological deep freeze of the Cold War in their efforts to portray China as something wicked that the West's way comes, they have tried to conflate the notion that a health threat that emerged in China is synonymous with China and its people somehow imperiling Western civilization.

Even the US secretary of state jumped at the chance to get in on the act by raising the image of the virus sweeping across the Kazakhstan border like some invading horde.

But then that is perhaps to be expected, for instead of making efforts to forge a community of shared concern to discuss, prevent and manage such risks that are common to all countries and peoples, as China has proposed countries do, the West, particularly the current US administration, is giving substance to the observation that it is those seeking to preserve power that are prone to adopting desperate and dangerous courses.

Highlighting this, the US secretary of state gave a speech on Feb 8 at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in which he sought to portray a web of systemized and sinister Chinese infiltration intent on gaining an advantage over the US "at the federal level, the state level and the local level".

Taking a leaf out of the playbook of the past, those opposed to China's rise are resorting to such loaded rhetoric in a bid to feed the fears of the gullible with the fabrication of monsters that will emerge from under people's beds to devour "the very basic freedoms that every one of us values".

The challenge for China is to counter the narratives of risk being imposed on it by Washington and others and demonstrate that the community with a shared future for humanity that it envisions and the values that it upholds can be endorsed by all countries.

That means countering the attempt by the US administration to claim the moral high ground as a means to delegitimize China's government, system and vision of a more inclusive future.

China must demonstrate that it is doing what it is doing because it is the right thing to do.

And the rest of the world should bear in mind that many of the qualities of China that are being portrayed as injurious in today's factious community would not be perceived as threatening in a more harmonious one. As shown by the welcome its assistance received in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis when the world managed to agree that there was a common risk, and, to a degree at least, what should be done to limit it.

In today's interconnected world, when the commonality of threats is becoming increasingly evident-along with the common origin of those threats in the unfettered exploitation of limited natural resources-those who would normally unthinkingly fall in line behind the US need to look beyond the fact that China did not become another playground for Western capital as anticipated and reject the US administration's attempts to wage a new Cold War.

Countries cannot insulate themselves against all the risks being created by the exploitation of the planet and its people for the benefit of a fewpercenters by building Berlin-style walls.

The author is a senior editor with China Daily.

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