Over the weekend, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), one of the most strident anti-Chinese voices on the Hill, argued that the thousands of Chinese students given visas to attend U.S. universities should be restricted from enrolling in science and technology programs. Instead, they should be allowed âto come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, thatâs what they need to learn from America,â Cotton said. âThey donât need to learn quantum computing and artificial intelligence from America.â
Chinese officials, meanwhile, keep stoking coronavirus counter-narratives. On Monday, the Twitter account of the Foreign Ministry spokesperson reiterated claims that the Trump administration is participating in a coverup and obscuring information about how the virus spread.
Growing doubts over the US governmentâs handling of the #COVID19, e.g. When did the first infection occur in the US? Is the US government hiding something? Why they opt to blame others? American people and the international community need an answer from the US government.
— Spokespersonåè¨äººåå ¬å®¤ (@MFA_China) April 27, 2020
Also in a tweet, Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of the Global Times, an English-language state-run tabloid, argued that China is reckoning more responsibly with the virus than the United States, whose âambitious politiciansâ are willing to risk the lives of the public by opening up the economy sooner than public health experts think wise.
Observers elsewhere are not impressed. China pursued âvery authoritarian measures, while in the U.S., the virus was played down for a long time,â German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview earlier this month with Der Spiegel. âThese are two extremes, neither of which can be a model for Europe.â
Some European critics have bemoaned President Trumpâs divisive management of the crisis and abandonment of global leadership amid the pandemic. Nathalie Tocci, who advises E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, has likened this moment to the 1956 Suez crisis â an international standoff in Egypt that is remembered as an inflection point in Britainâs decline as a global power. The 2020 pandemic may one day represent the same for the United States.
China, though, is hardly filling the void and may not want to â an argument often ignored in Washington, where an emerging bipartisan consensus casts Beijing as Americaâs inexorable 21st-century great power competitor. âChina has no desire to run the world in the way the Americans or the West have done,â former Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani told the Asian Nikkei Review. âThe Chinese are happy to play their part, but most of all want to take care of China.â
No matter the talk of a new âCold War,â the pandemic is a reminder that, for much of the world, neither American supremacy nor a newfangled Pax Sinica hold much appeal.
True, for nationalists and populists elsewhere, Chinaâs fiscal clout and growing political muscle does provide a counterbalance to the liberal system once championed by Washington. âLeaders, and populists especially, now increasingly see partnership with the United States â once viewed as an indispensable pillar of foreign policy â and its Western allies as overly constraining,â wrote scholars Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon in Foreign Policy. âFor example, (the Philippinesâ Rodrigo) Duterte, (Turkeyâs Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, and (Hungaryâs Viktor) Orban all came to power in states that were fully integrated members of the U.S.-led security order. All three now point to potential security relations with Russia and China as providing the possibility of greater balance with, if not outright exit from, that order.â
But even skeptics of the Pax Americana arenât eager to see it supplanted by the Chinese. âLike Beijing, the U.S. leveraged its pole position in the global economy, its military and industrial strengths, and its technological supremacy to build a world order that responded to its interests,â Indian parliamentarian Jayant Sinha and Delhi-based scholar Samir Saran wrote in a piece that forecast a less free and open post-pandemic world. âThere is, however, no equivalence between the two. U.S. society was largely open â individuals, communities and nations from around the world could engage, convince or petition its institutions; write in its media; and, often, participate in its politics. Its hegemony was constrained by a democratic society and conditioned by its electoral cycles.â
I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the âbordersâ from China – against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
âU.S.-China cooperation has been almost entirely absent during the early stages of this crisis, which now seems as likely to deepen the two nationâs divisions as it is to bring them together,â wrote James Crabtree in the Asian Nikkei Review. âThe aftermath of the global financial crisis suggests countries facing recessions and anxious domestic populations also all too often resort to protectionism, worsening both their own economic circumstances and those of their neighbors.â
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