https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/asia/us- ... index.htmlCoronavirus has created a rift between the US and China that may take a generation to heal
Analysis by Nectar Gan, CNN, Fri May 8, 2020(CNN)
The novel coronavirus has destroyed lives and livelihoods in both the United States and China. But instead of bonding the two nations together to fight the pandemic, it has sent their already strained relations on a rapid downward spiral -- and fanned the flames of a potentially dangerous strain of nationalism.
China has been criticized at home and abroad over its handling of the virus, especially during the initial outbreak. Pushing back such criticism with increasingly fierce rhetoric, Beijing says it is merely "responding" to false accusations, particularly from the US.
In March, as the pandemic raged across the globe, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian publicly promoted an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus might have been brought to China by the US military. A few days later, US President Donald Trump called the coronavirus the "Chinese virus," pinning the blame on China as the outbreak began to take hold in major American cities.
Trump dropped the term a week later -- but the finger pointing did not stop there. In recent weeks, the Trump administration has repeatedly lashed out at China over its handling of the outbreak, questioning its death toll and criticizing its early response to the virus. Last week, Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed -- without providing evidence -- that the virus originated from a Chinese lab. Beijing pushed back in response, dubbing the claim a reelection tactic aimed at boosting Trump's standing among Republican voters -- while China's government-controlled media attacked Pompeo with unusually vicious language, calling him "evil," "insane" and an "enemy of mankind."
But the acrimony goes deeper than a mere war of words. The Trump administration is reportedly drawing up plans to punish China for the pandemic -- retaliation options include sanctions, canceling US debt obligations and drawing up new trade policies. Trump and several administration officials are also enlisting foreign allies to join the pressure campaign against China."Lowest point" in decades
The dramatic deterioration of relations comes on the heels of a two-year trade war between the world's two largest economies -- a trade war that had already pushed tensions to new heights and spurred talk of decoupling. Yet while Trump's approach to China is not necessarily new, the situation he now faces is "much more dramatic and dangerous," said David Zweig, professor emeritus at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China Consulting Limited.
"The stakes are much higher," Zweig said. "In 2016, it was people's jobs. In 2020, it's people's lives." First detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last December, the coronavirus has since spread far beyond the country's borders, infecting 3.9 million people and killing at least 276,000 across the globe.
As bilateral ties plummet during the pandemic, US public opinion on China has also hit a new low. A recent Pew poll found that 66% of Americans held an unfavorable view of China, the highest percentage recorded since the annual survey began in 2005. Only about a quarter in the US report a favorable attitude towards China.
Similarly, in China, nationalism and anti-foreign sentiment is running high. Backed by state media and officials, there is also a growing sense of bitterness that Chinese people, especially the people of Wuhan, have made huge sacrifices to contain the virus and suffered great loss, yet their country is still being criticized for not doing enough -- and taking the blame for other governments' inadequate response in handling the pandemic.