Trump’s New Scapegoat is the People’s Republic of China.
In late March, when CBS News reporter Paula Reid asked why President Trump continued to insist upon his Easter timeline for opening up the US economy when medical experts, as well as both Democrats and Republicans, were opposed, Trump lashed out claiming that the news media would like to see him do poorly in the election...
I think there are certain people who would like it not to open so quickly. There are certain people who would like [the economy] to do poorly because that would be very good as far as defeating me at the polls. I don't know if that's so, but I think there are people in your profession that would like that to happen. I think it's very clear.”
There may be many members of the news media who do not want Trump to win the next presidential election—but that does not mean that those individuals hope that the US economy will collapse so as to defeat Trump in November. The legitimate concern raised by the reporter was that of saving lives and preventing the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading to more and more people. The issue of Trump’s re-election was not related to the question and should never have come into the discussion.
Trump’s statement accordingly represents a lapsus revelator of the fact that Trump has been putting his personal political interests and prospects for re-election ahead of the public interest.
Trump’s procrastination to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic—in effect delaying effective action from January to March—made the American death toll much higher than it would have been otherwise had Trump had taken effective leadership sooner. As many as 80,000 Americans out of 308,000 people world-wide have died and that amount is rising. Effective American leadership could probably have helped limit the death toll both at home and overseas as well.
The question as to how to best balance important economic interests with the need to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus is legitimate. Yet Trump’s evident obsession with his reelection over the public health of the American people and the world clearly illustrates the major reason as to why a single six-year term—among other major democratic reforms—should be implemented as soon as possible.
As I hope to discuss in a future article, major constitutional reforms—as outlined in my book World War Trump—will prove crucial to better prevent any future President from making major decisions based on his/her personal interest in sustaining power at the expense the American people and the world.
Given the reality that the pandemic has already caused unemployment to rise as high as 25%., thus potentially undermining Trump’s chances to win the November 2020 presidential election, Trump appears to be shifting his strategy to another ancient electoral ploy—the exaggeration of the “distant threat” in Aristotle’s words. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided Trump a perfect threat and scapegoat—China.
On the one hand, Trump now hopes to deflect popular attention away from his administration’s inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by pointing the finger at China as the main culprit for the mounting worldwide death toll and for the threat of a “greater depression” that has resulted from the pandemic. On the other hand, Trump also hopes that his belligerent posture toward Beijing, plus that toward Iran and North Korea, will convince Americans that they should not change the Commander-in-Chief in the midst of a confrontation with such rivals.
The Trump administration has consequently entered into a dangerous confrontation with Beijing in an effort to blame the Chinese Communist Party for concealing the true origins of the outbreak of the pandemic and not warning the world in time.
Yet in many ways, both sides are at fault, and not China alone. In this perspective, the CCP leadership can considered guilty of “sins of commission” more so than “sins of omission” while the US and other leaderships can be considered guilty of “sins of omission” more so than “sins of commission.”
In the case of China, major mistakes may have been made due to the lack of free and honest communications between the top Communist Party hierarchy and provincial officials. The latter were afraid that open public criticism would undermine their authority, but they also did not want to upset the powerful Central government (which they depend upon for rewards and benefits) and force it to investigate.
In fear that public criticism might undermine their authority and lead the Central Party leadership to intervene to investigate mismanagement, provincial Communist officials acted to reprimand a number of doctors who were the first to warn of a potential pandemic in late December. These doctors were then accused of “spreading rumors” about the existence of human-to-human transmission and thereby "causing adverse social impact".
In this narrative, the reluctance of local officials in Hubei Province to acknowledge the reality of human-to-human transmission and to warn Central Authorities in December (if not earlier) permitted the Coronavirus to continue spreading beyond Wuhan and Hubei province. Wuhan and many other cities were then belatedly put on lockdown on January 23—confining around 57 million people.
At the same time, while provincial officials may have delayed in reporting to higher authorities, Beijing itself may have urged a delay once it began to realize the magnitude of pandemic. According to an allegation by the German foreign intelligence agency (BND), yet strongly denied by the WHO, Chinese President Xi Jinping purportedly urged WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a January 21 telephone call to hold back information about person-to-person transmission and thus delay a pandemic warning. If true, this may have cost four to six weeks of time to fight the virus worldwide. A week after the January 23 Wuhan lockdown, the WHO then declared a global health emergency on January 30. but the WHO did not declare a global pandemic until March 11. Trump then declared a National Emergency for the USA on March 13—an action that could grant Trump powers to violate individual rights guaranteed by the US Constitution.
In a tacit recognition of the lack of honest communication between the lower and upper levels of the Party leadership, the CCP leadership rebuked the local Wuhan police and then belatedly (on January 28) praised the doctors who forewarned the pandemic as “eternal heroes"—including Dr Li Wenliang who subsequently died from COVID-19.
On the one hand, lower level officials may not have acted soon enough to report the virus for fear of reprimand from higher authorities; on the other hand, it is also possible that higher authorities—who did not listen to the warnings of so-called whistle blowers or to the local leadership—may want to put the blame on less powerful officials.
Another accusation that needs investigation is that Chinese authorities may also have covered over the fact that there were larger number of deaths than normal. This accusation could possibly be excused, at least in part, because the exact causes of all deaths were not thoroughly investigated due to lack of means. As has been the case in other countries, deaths in retirement homes, for example, may not have been investigated.
While it is not absolutely certain what level in the Chinese hierarchical leadership is actually responsible for the delay in action in December-January, once Beijing decided to act, it moved swiftly to snuff it out by means of a very strict lockdown and confinement of at least 57 million people.
In the case of the US Federal system, the fault for the delay in action lies, in part, in the two-term Presidential system that can lead a president to make decisions based on the prospects for re-election rather than on a more honest assessment of the national interest.
Trump is not the only President who has made decisions based on electoral concerns. But this decision could be considered a major “sin of omission”—and not just bad judgment. Despite his claims and attempts to blame China, Trump possessed enough information to act much sooner—had he and his administration listened to American experts and intelligence agencies who had warned the Bush, Jr, Obama, and the Trump administrations that a pandemic was a real possibility.
Trump’s “leadership” has been very chaotic at the Federal level—in large part because the Trump administration had already undermined the ability of the Federal government to respond to a major pandemic. Despite numerous expert warnings and briefings, the Trump administration (with Congressional complacency) opted to significantly cut the funding of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health and Human Services (HHS), in addition to the Complex Crises Fund. Trump also sought to reduce the focus of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Council (NSC) on disease-related threat programs.
In addition, the policy flip-flops of the Trump administration have not provided effective leadership for the fifty states and for localities. The dysfunctional nature of Trump administration leadership (including the refusal of Trump and top administration officials to wear face masks in public coupled with the exposure of top White House aides to the virus!) has led states and localities to choose a mishmash of policy options, with the Trump administration tending to provide greater support to Trump political loyalists.
Not only has the Trump administration leadership failed to build up a necessary supply of masks and personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other medical needs—but it has also engaged in blatant efforts to profit from the pandemic. This could be seen in Trump administration efforts to push chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine without appropriate scientific verification of their effectiveness and safety and other medicines onto the American drug market.
At one point, Trump had even called COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” with apparent racist insinuations that continue to radiate from his mouth like the virus itself. A Republican Party directive, however, has tried to shift the focus away from the term “Chinese virus” to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—so as not to appear to blame the Chinese population and Chinese ethnic groups for the outbreak of the pandemic. Republicans hope to hold the People’s Republic of China liable for civil claims.
While both sides may attempt to blame the other, the fundamental dilemma is that both sides made major errors in dealing with the pandemic that have a lot to do with their very different systems of governance.
What is eventually needed is a fair and balanced international investigation of the all the possible causes of the pandemic, including the impact of global warming and deforestation on bat and animal behavior, for example, plus a study that proposes ways to prevent such global pandemics through stronger international cooperation in the future—if the two sides are to eventually reconcile their differences. Otherwise, US-China imprecations will continue to fester.
The US presidential election in November will focus on two main issues: Which candidate can better rebuild the US economy? And which one will be able to deal with perceived international threats from North Korea, Iran, Russia and particularly China?
For Trump and the Republicans, China now represents a two-edged sword. On one side, Beijing is perceived by Republicans as a direct economic threat to domestically-based US industry and to American workers. On the other side, Beijing is increasingly perceived as a global geo-economic threat that is challenging US global hegemony through its Belt and Road Initiative and its burgeoning military, economic, and energy ties with Russia, Iran, Venezuela, among other states—while concurrently seeking hegemony over the South and East China Sea, and seeking to unify with Taiwan by force, if necessary.
In essence, in a replay of the early Cold War at the time of the Sino-Soviet alliance, and during the McCarthy period, Republicans want to look tough on China while trying to paint Democrats and Trump’s rival, Joe Biden, as soft on China—and implicitly, soft on Communism.
This is true despite Trump’s previous statements in late January that China was doing a good job in containing the virus—at the very time that the virus was clearly spreading from China to Iran, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy and throughout Europe. At that time, US intelligence agencies repeatedly warned Trump in briefings about the virus and argued that Beijing was not telling the whole truth as to the number of people who had died from COVID-19.
In fact, just a few days after Chinese President Xi Jinping had allegedly urged the Director-General of the WHO on January 21 to hold back information about person-to-person transmission, and thus delay a pandemic warning, Trump tweeted on Jan. 24…
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus… The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!
Were both Trump and the Director-General of the WHO under Beijing’s sway— at that crucial moment when tough measures needed to be taken across the world?
The US-China propaganda war has subsequently moved to the UN Security Council with the World Health Organization (WHO) once again caught in the crossfire. This is after Trump threatened to cut US funding for the WHO—given his claims that the WHO leadership was unduly influenced by Beijing—an action that will further weaken the WHO's ability to coordinate a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other health crises.
In May 2020, Washington blocked a vote on a UN Security Council resolution that would support a global ceasefire—ostensibly due to an indirect reference to the WHO. After the Chinese had dropped their insistence that the WHO be directly mentioned, the US still objected to an indirect reference to the World Health Organization in the compromise rephrasing of that UN resolution. The US then claimed it would only approve the resolution if new wording would include language that was critical of both the WHO and China for their inept response to the pandemic.
As Washington and Beijing battle it out, one can question whether either side is really sincere about a global ceasefire: Why should the WHO—whether the Director-General was influenced by China or not—stand in the way of a UN resolution advocating a global ceasefire? And, as previously mentioned, what if Trump was also guilty of being under China’s sway?
The irony raised here is that despite the Trump administration’s subsequent decision to intensify its political, economic, and military pressures on China, Trump himself secretly craves Xi Jinping’s president-for-life status in a form of penis envy.
If Trump does win a second term, he will try to change the US Constitution to make it possible for a future president, including himself, to run without term restrictions… TRUMP 4(EVER)…
In these radically changing political circumstances, instead of praising the Chinese President-for-Life, Trump’s China policy has flipped once again to suit his domestic interests in re-election. As tensions between the US and China are mounting, both Trump administration and high-ranking Chinese officials are engaging in a high stakes propaganda game that risks war in the Indo-Pacific. On the one hand, Chinese officials have claimed the COVID-19 virus might have been brought to China when 300 US military members arrived in the Wuhan region for the World Military Games in mid-October. On the other, both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both claimed that COVID-19 might have been created by Chinese scientists in a bio-weapons lab in Wuhan, or at least leaked from that lab—while stating that they could not divulge secret information that would prove their allegations. Yet both US and Allied intelligence agencies have publicly disputed that theory—which is, of course, strongly denied by Beijing.
In short, Trump’s efforts to play brinksmanship with Iran, North Korea, and now China, are leading to disaster—with a “greater depression” in the making that could easily transmogrify into wider regional wars, if not direct major power war.
To be continued...