Covid-19 and cowboy diplomacy

No single country can handle this pandemic alone. There is a need for cooperation

Covid-19 and cowboy diplomacy

Cowboy diplomacy originated in the USA and has a prominent place in American ways of problem-solving. The American press started using the term in 1902 to describe the President Theodore Roosevelt Jr’s way of dealing with foreign countries. Roosevelt had introduced a policy motto to “speak soft and carry a big stick”. He applied it to tackle the diplomatic issues of his time and was criticised for it.

Nevertheless, successive US administrations have happily adopted it and made it a prominent part of their strategies. President Ronald Reagan redefined it and said, “talk tough, and carry a big stick”. He declared the USSR an Evil Empire. USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan provided him the opportunity to apply it. The fall of the USSR gave a new impetus to cowboy diplomacy.

President Bush introduced the phrase “you are with us or against us”, a show of sheer arrogance that led to the disturbance of the global order. It resulted in economic crises and ultimately withdrawal of the US from Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the USA did not learn from the mistake.

It is now trying to find new avenues for cowboy diplomacy against China. They are still working hard to practice cowboy diplomacy. They are not even sparing Covid-19 which requires cooperation at the global level.

Since the outbreak of the deadly virus, the USA has launched a comprehensive campaign to malign China. First, President Trump and Mike Pompeo were steering the campaign. Now President Biden and his administration have taken over the job. President Trump and Pompeo had started calling it China virus and encouraged other countries to support the USA in this. The campaign continued during the most severe Covid-19 epidemic.

The Trump administration spent more time criticising China than making efforts to control the pandemic. The USA achieved nothing from it except devastating results in the form of infection and deaths in the USA.

The Biden administration has accelerated the efforts to blame China. They have mobilised the resources to create confusion and undermine Chinese efforts to counter Covid-19. While the Biden administration is reversing several policy initiatives of the Trump administration, China is an unchanged factor. The Biden administration is showing more enthusiasm in spreading fake news about Covid-19 to blame China. The president is portraying himself as the champion of anti-China rhetoric and campaign.

President Biden has found a new battleground in the form of the origin-tracing. The USA has applied all tools to launch a smear campaign against China. President Biden has now ordered the intelligence community to come up with evidence about the origins of Covid-19 by focusing on China. The administration wants evidence from the intelligence community, not from scientists. This clearly indicates that the USA has other motives than finding the truth. There is clear consensus among experts that the whole campaign is meant to contain China.

It is an open secret that the USA has launched many initiatives to contain China. It has launched a trade war, banned Chinese companies and stopped American companies from working with China in modern technology. President Trump even said that the USA will not allow any country to surpass the USA in modern technologies and that China is no exception. It is part of USA’s policy that it will not tolerate any peer competitor and will do anything and everything to oppose it. This is a perfect example of cowboy diplomacy in the contemporary world.

Covid-19 is a new instrument of cowboy diplomacy. Despite repeated warnings, the USA is sticking to its policy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2021 concluded that it is extremely unlikely that the virus came out of some laboratory. It was in response to the propaganda that the virus leaked out from the Wuhan laboratory. The WHO report highlighted that the safety mechanisms and record of Wuhan laboratory is comprehensive and execution of safety measures very strict.

The US government is compelling its international community to accept the US version and blame China. The USA has once again asked the WHO to study the Wuhan laboratory. However, it does not like the idea of inspection of the US laboratories. China has asked the USA many times to open its Fort Detrick Laboratory for inspection and probe, but the USA has not agreed. China has also offered that if the USA opens Fort Detrick laboratory China will open the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It sounds like a fair proposition.

Many experts believe that the US demand is politically motivated and that its purpose is to malign China. This is another example of cowboy diplomacy.

Despite the negativity and smear campaign China is cooperating with the world to combat the challenge of the pandemic. China has already provided more than 900 million doses of vaccine to the world, especially to the developing and poor countries. China is also aiming to provide 2 billion doses this year. China has also provided billions of masks to the world, in addition to oxygen generators, cylinders and protective suits. President Xi at the global health summit of the WHO in May 2021 promised to provide $ 3 billion to help the countries in need.

No single country can handle this pandemic alone. There is a need for cooperation. The US should start cooperating with the rest of the world. There is no denying that the USA is the most advanced country and has the technology needed to assist the world in fighting Covid-19. It can deploy resources to help the poor and developing countries.

The writer is a political economist

Covid-19 and cowboy diplomacy