Trump. CHYNA! Scomo?
Words by Stasi Kapetanos
Coronavirus has affected us all and we all have had to find ways to work around it. In America the plan seems to be to carry on, but even they cannot keep calm. With a healthcare system that is inaccessible to the average person and designed for profiteering, and a thoroughly eroded welfare state, if you can even call it that, ordinary Americans are desperate. In a political system designed by the perfect founding fathers, the choice between one raving insane predatory old man and another in a different colour demonstrates how the actual needs of the people are shunted into a corner to be ignored for boisterous but cynical politicking.
President Trump by all objective measures has completely and utterly failed to deal with the coronavirus crisis and everyone knows this plain as day, but for him it’s okay as long he finds a way to avoid the blame. He can’t blame the Democrats’ obstructionism anymore because they are working with him to pass legislation now more than ever (he needs them to); he can’t monger fear about socialism because Cuba and even Venezuela have somehow done a better job with this than he has; and he can’t effectively complain about the radical left because his election challenger is, bizarrely, possibly to his Right. There is only one possible scapegoat left, CHYNA!
China’s role in — and initial response to — the spread of the coronavirus should be looked into and questions as to whether or not the World Health Organisation should be the conduit for this, as the Australian government has raised, are perfectly legitimate. But this is not what Trump is trying to do: when asked by Weijia Jiang about his attitude towards the toll coronavirus was taking on the American people, he immediately pivoted to blaming China. China isn’t forcing parts of America to open up early, it isn’t forcing people to protest and ignore social distancing, it isn’t forcing people not to wear masks — Trump is encouraging all of those things!
After a phone call with Trump, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into China over coronavirus, back when senior government figures from across Europe (including the UK) were still focused on dealing with the crisis at hand. In calling for an investigation into coronavirus while Trump was the only other significant leader doing the same — moreover during a time where Australia’s and China’s relationship were already tense, as they have been since former Prime Minister Turnbull’s 2018 clashes with China over 5G — Morrison antagonised China to the detriment of Australia’s economy. China’s response of imposing tariffs on Australian barely was not an unpredictable response. Scott Morrison himself has suggested that the tariffs were imposed on anti-dumping grounds, but Perth USAsia Centre Research Director Jeffery Wilson has disputed the idea that Australian barley farmers are dumping their produce in China and driving people there out of business, describing anti-dumping claims as “unsubstantiated”.
So, it seems that after incurring the economic wrath of China and devastating Australian farmers (I wonder what the Nationals would have to say about this) Scott Morrison is running with his tail between his legs and adopting a more cooperative tone with the People’s Republic of China. At least now he is winning over other countries to the idea of an international inquiry into coronavirus, but at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to Australian agriculture. All this is not for a noble cause, like standing up to China’s human rights abuses, nor a strategic one, like asserting our interests in South China Sea disputes, but seemingly only to appease Trump and pretend to ‘shirtfront’ Xi Jinping over coronavirus.