How the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Change U.S.-China Relations


President of the Center for Security Policy Fred Fleitz

The ongoing pandemic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (formally designated by the World Health Organization as “COVID-19” but referred to by many conservative American politicians and commentators as the “Wuhan virus” or the “China virus”) has had a devastating effect on the global economy, international relations and possibly global stability. The virus caused an estimated 231,000 deaths worldwide and 64,000 in the United States through the last week of April. Fortunately, coronavirus deaths in Japan so far have been under 500.
Although President Trump and his administration initially tried to restrain criticism of China's leadership for mishandling of the virus, growing evidence of its criminal negligence in this crisis plus demands in the U.S. that China be punished or forced to pay compensation likely will lead to significant changes in America’s relationship with China and have implications for global security.
There is a “blame game” going on in the United States over who is responsible for the spread of the virus in America. On one side, Democrats and the mainstream media insist that President Trump is singularly responsible for the pandemic in the United States and that talk of the Chinese government's culpability represents xenophobia, racism and efforts by the president to shift the blame. On the other side, Republicans praise President Trump's response to the pandemic – especially his cutoff of flights from China on January 31 – and argue that the Chinese government must bear most of the blame for this global crisis.
This blame game will continue until the November presidential election and most Democrats will never cease their efforts to use the coronavirus to defeat Mr. Trump. However, the debate in the U.S. over assigning blame began to shift in mid-April as evidence of Chinese negligence and misconduct became so overwhelming that many of the president’s strongest critics such as the Washington Post and CNN could not ignore it. Both media outlets published articles on how the pandemic may be a result of dangerous research conducted by Wuhan biological laboratories on coronaviruses obtained from bats. There also is growing anger in the U.S. that although Beijing conducted a massive quarantine of the Wuhan area to prevent the virus from spreading throughout China, it did not stop international flights from Wuhan which led these travelers to spread the virus around the world. As a result, there are growing calls in Congress and across the United States for the Chinese government to pay compensation to the United States for deaths and the huge economic toll caused by its negligent handing of the virus.
This shift is occurring in other countries as well. A German newspaper wants Germany to send China a bill for 149 billion euros in compensation.