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Saturday, Oct 24, 2020

US and China should focus on common enemy, not politics

Conversation between leaders of two greatest powers following the G20 online summit has raised hopes they will cooperate in fighting the coronavirus pandemic

The Group of 20 online summit was an overdue attempt by the world’s major powers to lead a global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, comparable with their prompt action in the global financial crisis.

Just as importantly, it set the stage for presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump to speak later by phone in an attempt to ease tensions between China and the United States.

Finger pointing over the spread of the coronavirus has diverted attention and contributed to a fragmented and weakened global response.

Now that the front line of the pandemic has shifted to Europe and the US with increasingly devastating consequences, the world cannot afford the distraction of bickering between its two greatest powers.

It needs China and the US to cooperate and be seen jointly leading the international fightback.

Trust-building between the two is paramount if they are to set aside rivalry and focus on containment, finding a cure and developing a vaccine.

Xi’s call on the US to take steps to cooperate in containing the pandemic reflects China’s determination to play a key role in turning the tide.

An obstacle to cooperation is the stigmatisation of China with references by US officials to the “Wuhan virus” and the “China virus”. In this respect, complaints by the Chinese side about such remarks resonated with the official communique issued by the G20 nations.

In a veiled swipe at US officials, including Trump, over the virus labelling, Xi said: “the virus knows no boundaries and ethnicity, and it is our common enemy. The international community can only defeat it through working together”.

More obliquely, the G20 statement said: “We stress the importance of responsible communication to the public during this global health crisis.”

In a reaffirmation of multilateralism that echoed Xi’s remarks, the communique said the pandemic was “a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities”, and the virus “respects no borders”. G20 leaders pledged to do “whatever it takes” to minimise the social and economic damage, including investing in medicines and vaccines.

In a tweet, Trump said he had a good conversation with Xi and acknowledged that China had been through much and developed a strong understanding of the virus. “We are working closely together,” he wrote.

We trust that this means divisive rivalry will be put aside.

In a tweet, Trump said he had a good conversation with Xi and acknowledged that China had been through much and developed a strong understanding of the virus. “We are working closely together,” he wrote.

We trust that this means divisive rivalry will be put aside.

Trump may have his political agenda with an election later this year. China’s rise as a world leader may not figure in it. But a battle between all of mankind and its most lethal contagion for a century is no time for politics.

Indeed, the two sides share the bottom line. Neither stands to win if they don’t cooperate against a common enemy.

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