There are already conspiracy theories out there that Covid-19 – what only Trump calls the Chinese Virus – is either a weaponized virus created by China or one that leaked accidentally out of Chinese laboratories. I am not one for conspiracy theories, but when reading yesterday news stories about China – not the US – coming to Spain’s rescue, it became clear that China will end up being the great victor when the dust settles and all is said and done.
Let’s look at the current situation. The U.S. (and many European countries) have known at least for 2 months about the impending humanitarian and economic crisis that Covid-19 presented. Nevertheless, they sat on the information and did not take urgent steps. In the meantime, China – a country with significantly less political restraints – was able to take drastic and extreme measures, all of which in hindsight seem reasonable. Now we are starting to see the fruits of those measures with factories coming back online and the number of new infections dropping. In other words, China will be able to prosper while the rest of the world, in particular the U.S., is devastated.
Does this sound familiar? After World War II, the U.S. became what Americans called the world’s “indispensable” nation, taking on the role of global leader. Americans often think this is because of some inherent merit or intrinsic moral superiority of democracy or American values. But this is not the case. The U.S. was simply the only industrialized nation not in rubble after the war. We were the last man standing. In John W. Dower’s Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II about the U.S. military occupation of Japan following the war, he writes,
“What made America “great” was that it was rich; and, for many, what made “democracy” appealing was the way to become prosperous.
The U.S. walked away from World War II (without the preexisting conditions of World War I) unscathed, with the positive aftereffects of having put the economy into overhaul to build and supply the war effort abroad while suffering absolutely no infrastructural damage on the mainland. We were young, thriving, optimistic, ideological and ready to rebuild the world to our own massive benefit. We have reaped those benefits until today: economic, military and cultural dominance.
While the first impression that the rest of the world had of China three months ago when reports came out about the Covid-19 was that China was a totalitarian regime covering up a major PR nightmare and lying to the rest of the world – flash forward to the end of March, and let’s not lie to ourselves. European democracies and the U.S. have engaged in the same type of political deception. In Spain – where I live and am in total lockdown – the Socialist government is taking major heat from society for having waited so long to react – even though Spain has imposed some of the strictest measures in Europe. Meanwhile, the Trump administration spent the last two months assuring Americans that Covid-19 (which again it suddenly dubbed the Chinese Virus) was absolutely nothing to worry about, that soon zero Americans would be infected, and that the good weather would make it dissipate.
Unless the US intelligence community, national security team reporting to the President and the President are idiots, then they must have known since the beginning of the outbreak in China months ago that there was a risk of pandemic and that China were covering it all up. The US leadership may have had good reasons to lie -like to avoid a panic or economic meltdown – but they lied. In other words, Americans have been just as dishonest as the Chinese, either that or they have been fatally incompetent, with a potential death toll that will outnumber 911 and terrorist-related deaths by the thousands.
Now the world is watching. They see the incompetence of the Americans and the Europeans. At the same time, they see the Chinese coming out of their nightmare able to lend material support and medical expertise, all while the Americans are arguing over how much money to give to corporate slush funds. I am already hearing people say that the democracies of the world are not able to achieve what the totalitarian Chinese could. So when all is said and done and countries are decimated, who will they look to for models of success and for a helping hand?
It is as if everything that was achieved since World War II to improve civic and political rights, peace and prosperity has ended in a last few desperate gasps of respiratory failure.