Despite calls for global cooperation, US and China fight over leading coronavirus response
The U.S. and Chinese governments have increasingly turned the novel coronavirus pandemic into a contest over their primacy as the world’s leading humanitarian force, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighting U.S. contributions to global aid agencies Tuesday and pushing back on Chinese propaganda about its overseas assistance.
But as the pandemic spreads to the developing world and kills more people in nearly every region, experts say a lack of global coordination has cost the world time, money, and lives, with some saying U.S. leadership has been missing.
“This pandemic can only be won when countries and means and resources are put and pooled together to contain and to fight the spread of the virus,” Robert Mardini, director-general designate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told ABC News. “This is the only way forward.”
Pompeo has consistently taken China to task as Chinese officials have spread false information about the U.S. being the source of the novel coronavirus, with a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson even pushing the conspiracy theory that the U.S. military brought it to Wuhan — the Chinese city of 11 million where cases first exploded.
But that diplomatic spat seemed to recede in the last week. President Donald Trump largely stopped using the phrase “Chinese virus,” saying he didn’t “need” to anymore, and during a briefing at the State Department Tuesday, Pompeo didn’t use the phrase “Wuhan virus” either, which a State Department official had told ABC News he used to push back on Chinese disinformation.
MORE: Fears grow over coronavirus outbreak devastating refugees, civilians trapped by war
That’s because Chinese propaganda organs had stopped pushing that conspiracy theory, according to Lea Gabrielle, head of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which monitors and combats state-run and terrorist recruitment propaganda. After receiving a negative response in Latin America and Africa, according to Gabrielle, China’s state-run media outlets, amplified by their overseas ambassadors, have shifted to focus on propaganda praising the Communist Party’s response and criticizing the U.S. for stigmatizing China.