Blaming China is a dangerous distraction

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — As the Covid-19 crisis widens, discussions about China’s role in this crisis intensify. It is already well known that several Chinese officials made a major mistake in late December and early January, when they tried to hide information about the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan and even silenced the doctors who were trying to raise the alarm.

The Chinese leadership will now have to live with these mistakes, even if it is able to successfully overcome this crisis and take adequate measures to prevent future epidemics.

But it’s far from clear why other countries believe that it is in their interests to constantly remind these initial mistakes of China, and not to seek the necessary solutions. Apparently, for many governments, China’s censure has become a maneuver that distracts attention from their own shortcomings in preparing for the pandemic.

Equally worrying is the growing criticism of the World Health Organization, including from US President Donald Trump, who reproaches the organization for allegedly being unable to hold the Chinese government accountable. Today, when the highest global priority should be the organization of a comprehensive, coordinated response to the dual – epidemic and economic – crisis due to coronavirus,

At the global and national levels, we absolutely need to do everything possible to accelerate the development of a reliable and effective vaccine and at the same time make collective efforts to provide the diagnostic and therapeutic tools that are needed to keep this pandemic crisis under control. There is no other global medical organization that has the capacity to combat this pandemic, so WHO will remain at the center of this struggle, whether certain political leaders like it or not.

When I headed the British Independent Antimicrobial Resistance Commission (AMR), I had to deal with WHO in part, and I can say that it resembles most large, bureaucratic international organizations. Like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UN, it is not a dynamic structure or ready to think outside the box. But we should not beat these organizations from the side, but be engaged in improving them. During the current crisis, we should do our best to help WHO and the IMF play an effective, leading role in the global fight against the crisis.

As I wrote earlier, the IMF should expand the scope of the annual country assessment in accordance with Article IV to include an assessment of national health systems, since it critically depends on the ability of states to prevent or at least cope with crises similar to the current one. I even already discussed this idea with the IMF officials themselves, but in response they told me that such an assessment is not within the competence of the fund, because it does not have the appropriate expert experience.

This answer was not very good even then, and even less so now. If the IMF does not have the expertise to evaluate health systems, then it should acquire that experience. The crisis caused by Covid-19 clearly demonstrates that it is useless to separate health from finance. These two areas of public policy are deeply interconnected, and that is how they should be treated.

Reflecting on what the international response to the emergency situation in health and economics should be like today, we can draw an obvious analogy with the global financial crisis of 2008. Everyone knows that the crisis began because of a bubble in the US housing market, which was inflated by foreign savings amid a lack of domestic savings in the United States. When this bubble finally burst, many countries suffered much more than the United States. And in the same way, the Covid-19 pandemic hit some countries harder than China.

However, very few countries have rushed to blame the United States for organizing this incredibly destructive real estate bubble, although the scars from that crisis are still visible. On the contrary, many states rejoiced at the return of the American economy to sustainable growth in recent years, because a strong American economy is beneficial to the rest of the world.

And therefore, instead of using double standards and fixing on China’s serious mistakes, we should better think about what China can teach us. Specifically, we should focus on understanding what diagnostic technologies and techniques China used to keep its (official) virus mortality statistics so low compared to other countries and to restart the economy within a few weeks after the peak of the outbreak.

And it is in our own interests to think about what measures China could take to return back to the path of the annual 6% growth, because the Chinese economy will inevitably play an important role in the global economic recovery. If, after a pandemic, China’s growth model will justify the efforts made by the country’s leadership in recent years to increase domestic consumption and imports from the rest of the world, then it will benefit all of us.

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