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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/27/20

In Coronavirus Outbreak, U.S. and Western World Needs to Refrain from Lecturing China

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Republished from The American Herald Tribune

A medical worker gives a patient medical treatment in the ICU in Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan
A medical worker gives a patient medical treatment in the ICU in Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan
(Image by Xinhua/Xiong Qi)
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Many in the U.S. and the Western world find it difficult to hold back the desire to feel superior, dare I say exceptional, to China or the rest of the non-white world. Exceptionalism and superiority are built into the DNA of imperialism. However, rather than fear or criticize China, the peoples of the U.S. and West should focus on their own problems. It is important to note that tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to the lack of healthcare , a number far higher than anything that the Coronavirus can and will produce in China.

The Chinese city of Wuhan is currently dealing with a medical crisis caused by an outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus. Thousands of people have contracted the disease and forty-one have died. Most of the fatalities from the virus have affected vulnerable individuals such as the chronically ill and the elderly. The source of the outbreak has yet to be determined but the illness' impact has garnered significant media coverage from the Western press. It is important for progressive and peace-loving people in the U.S. and the Western world to demand that their governments and corporate media refrain from lecturing China at this sensitive time.

U.S. and Western audiences need to understand that the Chinese people are united in resolving this crisis. According to a source in Wuhan, the central government has called upon the people to enact a national patriotic health campaign to eradicate the disease. People are taking the outbreak seriously but there isn't panic in the streets. Wuhan has shut down all transportation in and out of the city except for in special circumstances. A hotline has been organized to ensure that medical facilities are stocked with supplies. Doctors are working around the clock to treat people to the point where measures are being taken to protect their immune systems from overwork. Sacrifices are being made at a time in China where many people travel all over the country to visit relatives for the Spring Festival.

The Western and U.S. corporate press works hand in hand with imperialist governments to demonize China as a backward, "authoritarian" country. U.S. and Western governments see China's rise to the top of the world economic stage as a threat to the hegemonic interests of finance capital. Already corporate outlets such as CNN are casting doubt on the official figures presented by the Chinese government. The corporate media has also used the outbreak to project panic into the minds of readers and viewers. So-called Chinese social media accounts have slung underhanded criticism toward Xi Jinping's calm response to the disease in an attempt to paint the Chinese government as negligent and manipulative.

Corporate media bias can be readily seen in a recent news report that Wuhan is rapidly building a hospital to increase its quarantine capacity. According to U.S. outlets such as The New York Times and Business Insider, the hospital is a response to the anger, panic, and fear that has spread across China due to the government's ineffective response. Chinese media takes a different tone. China Daily reported that the 1,000-bed hospital is set to be finished by February 3rd. The hospital will be a copy of the Beijing Xiaotangshan Hospital that was built in one week during the SARS outbreak of 2003. Only 1.18 percent of the nearly 700 patients treated at the hospital died of SARS and China's central government hopes to repeat that success in its response to the current Coronavirus outbreak. In other words, China's response to the virus outbreak is entirely rational. The corporate media has additionally ignored the free taxis, foodstuffs, and medical supplies being provided to the residents of Wuhan amid all of the hysteria about the partial lockdown.

It is easy for Americans or Westerners to get sucked into the incessant media coverage of China's handling of the Coronavirus. The outbreak carries international significance given how interconnected China has become with the rest the world. Furthermore, the corporate media accumulates enormous profits by peddling fear to the masses. Increasing public fear about China serves a multitude of elite interests. But people in the U.S. and the West need to refrain from lecturing China and should instead encourage U.S. and Western governments to address their own national crises.

There are no shortages of national crises for the U.S. and the West to choose from. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. Images of people stranded atop their homes led rapper Kanye West to declare that George W. Bush didn't care about Black people. Nearly two thousand people died and over one hundred thousand were displaced by the storm. Media coverage at the time simply blamed the carnage on the omnipotence of nature or the poor preparation from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).

The reality was much worse. New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward was a predominantly Black neighborhood. Ninety thousand Black Americans were displaced from their homes without redress. Much of the $100 billion in federal aid given to New Orleans was used to "revitalize" the city. Post-Katrina, rent prices soared in the city to make way for wealthier white Americans. Nearly one hundred percent of the school system in New Orleans now comprises of private charter schools. In other words, the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have all provided cover for "disaster capitalism" to strike New Orleans in the post-Katrina era.

The U.S. and West have used the model of disaster capitalism in other instances as well. Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico in 2017 was worsened by the vicious austerity imposed on the people in the aftermath of PROMESA, a piece of legislation passed under Obama that Puerto Ricans call La Junta. The bill established the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board to gut Puerto Rico's public sector free of any government regulation. Damage from both austerity and the hurricane has killed thousands and left over half of the country without power to this day. The U.S.' continued treatment of Puerto Rico as colony has ensured that nearly half of the population is mired in poverty without any form of redress. In the U.K., Grenfell Tower burned to the ground in 2017. This event killed around eighty people (mainly of Asian and African descent) and stripped naked the consequences of austerity and privatization for poor and working class people.

None of these national crises have been adequately addressed by the so-called leaders of the "free world" in the U.S. and West. That's because the U.S. and Western way of life is organized around the profit motive, not the needs of people. Europe gave birth to global capitalism before the U.S. took the reigns as the system's hegemonic power. Global capitalism is built on a foundation of slavery, genocide, and imperial exploitation. With millions of Iraqis in the streets protesting the continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq, it is clear that the U.S. and the West have little right to spread unwarranted fear about China's domestic affairs.

Many in the U.S. and the Western world find it difficult to hold back the desire to feel superior, dare I say exceptional, to China or the rest of the non-white world. Exceptionalism and superiority are built into the DNA of imperialism. However, rather than fear or criticize China, the peoples of the U.S. and West should focus on their own problems. It is important to note that tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to the lack of healthcare, a number far higher than anything that the Coronavirus can and will produce in China. The rise of Corbyn in the U.K. and Sanders in the U.S. demonstrates that millions of people are fed up with the social and economic catastrophes produced by capitalism. Fearing China or hating China doesn't lead to universal healthcare, an end to homelessness, or the resolution of any of the myriad of crises afflicting poor and working people. Instead, such chauvinism only leaves Americans and Europeans even more isolated and vulnerable to the predations of elites whose principle interest is amassing huge riches at their expense.

 

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Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to (more...)
 
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David William Pear

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There should be headlines everyday on the number of people that die in the US because they do not have basic healthcare.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 27, 2020 at 4:39:10 PM

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