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Foreign Policy

New Cold War Good for Nothing

Jun 18, 2020

During a recent interview with Le Figaro, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon tried his very best to attack China.

Not only did he label China as the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage the American government and people to demand compensation (as he has done repeatedly in recent months) but he also insisted that the U.S. must decouple from China.

Some say Bannon was playing the role of a “New Cold Warrior.” As a matter of fact, he just used the same old Cold War mindset to stigmatize and demonize China, more than willing to drive U.S.-China relations to the brink of danger. His position, groundless and unscientific, is good for no one.

The price of decoupling is too high for both China and the U.S., but if it were to happen, it would hurt the U.S. most. As Nathaniel Taplin vividly describes in his article published in The Wall Street Journal on June 3, “Divorces can be messy and expensive: They entail financial sacrifices in exchange for independence and peace of mind. The unfolding U.S.-China breakup will be no different.”

Zheng Yongnian, a professor at the East Asian Institute at National University of Singapore, warns that decoupling for the U.S. means a complete reorganization its East Asian industrial chains.

Taplin gives another example, showing that since Chinese students account for one-third of international students in America, they contribute greatly to higher education. If their entrance to the U.S. is blocked, universities will certainly feel the pain. In fact, almost all the global challenges we face today require coordination between China and the U.S., which has been clearly demonstrated in the joint fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robert Zoellick, former president of the World Bank, recently said, “It is flat wrong to suggest that working with China has not served U.S. interests. Self-deception will lead to dangerous diplomacy.”

Cooperation between China and the U.S. benefits both, as well as people around the world. History has taught us that nothing will prevail over the will of the people.

As for tracing the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should depend on science, not some politicians’ irresponsible talk. China is open to joint efforts by the international scientific community to identify the source of the coronavirus, as long as the process is professional, impartial and constructive.

But Bannon and like-minded political forces seem to be obsessed with blaming China for spreading the virus, despite voices of disagreement from the World Health Organization and most nations. China fulfilled its responsibility in sharing virus-related information with the WHO and others, including the United States.

The recently published white paper, “Fighting Covid-19: China in Action,” serves as an open book with a clear timeline, solid data and plain facts. With helpful information at hand, the U.S. government could have acted in a timely manner, but it failed. It missed the time window China given it at great sacrifice. Virus hunter Dennis Carroll said the failure of the Trump administration to act promptly with countermeasures led to the rampage of the pandemic across America.

Likewise, no matter how hard Bannon tries to justify lawsuits against China, those filed in the U.S. so far are frivolous, shoddy, unreasonable and immoral. They have zero basis in fact, law or international precedent.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently said: “COVID-19 caught the whole world by surprise. China, like other countries, is a victim. Some people are clamoring for so-called accountability, and they are fabricating so-called evidence for frivolous lawsuits. These people are trampling on the international rule of law and betraying human conscience. Their action does not square with facts, nor does it stand up to reason or have any legal foundation.”

Partisans like Bannon see enemies around every corner and appear more than willing to see a new Cold War, this time between China and the U.S., regardless of the harm that would come to both sides. To state the case bluntly, a new Cold War would undo the fruits of decades-ong China-U.S. cooperation, dampen America’s own development prospects and put world stability and prosperity in jeopardy.

As Harvard professor Graham Allison, a former official in the Reagan and Clinton administrations, said during an interview: “The end game will probably be lose-lose.”

People with wisdom and foresight on both sides should not fall for this nonsense. What they should do is listen to the calls for cooperation and return to rationality.

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