Time and again the rhetoric of war comes to the frontline conversations and debate in international relations. The North American, as well as the European power blocks, are in shock and dismay about what has befallen on their secure and comfortably wealthy economies. Deaths in thousands even though less emphasis laid on those who have been healed by the dedicated medical personnel of each of these nations. At the time of writing this piece, there are globally 3,601,760 confirmed infected cases while 906,404 have recovered and with 251,910 deaths (@17.55 UTC 05 May 2020).
There is a serious call to action led by the Australian PM, Scott Morrison who says that he has written to the G20 leadership to conduct an investigation on the origin of the Covid-19 was most likely from the wildlife wet market in Wuhan, China. Whether it is the wildlife wet market or the Wuhan laboratory-related as declared by US officials are still wild guesses. The accused is innocent unless proven guilty and it is in this context that Beijing too is showing its marine muscle in both East and South China seas while both US and Taiwan are struggling with the virus. Of course the US is annoyed about the military belittling their capacity as most of their sophisticated warships are marooned with virus-infected officers. China cynically operating with a ‘make hey while sunshine’ dictum in the region.
Interestingly the Chinese officials in Canberra have rebuked the Australian PM Morrison when he earlier last week suggested ‘the 5 eyes’ (US, UK, France Australia, and New Zealand) to undertake the focus on investigating Wuhan’s negligence by Beijing. However, for Morrison later to reach the G20 leaders is because the ‘group of 5 eyes’ did not agree perhaps, at least New Zealand would have had other opinions even though Wellington and Canberra every creatively have scheduled to open a travel corridor between the major domestic airports in the two countries which is a commendable route to boost their economies even though the Southern hemisphere is heading for its Winter. It’s a good model for alternative business planning.
Washington’s war rhetoric is uncalled for when America’s soul is basically grieving for such a massive number of deaths, over 10 times the 9/11 or more than the entire death toll of Americans during the Vietnam war. Pompeo’s ‘poodling’ of the by gone John Bolton, a foreign policy hawk like hobnober, a man viciously advocated the concept of so called regime change in Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Libya (messed it up with a death of its own diplomat and dismantled the country), Cuba (his abortive project), Yeman (another mess connived with the Saudis) and North Korea (with 2 fruitless summits). The latter project with Bolton’s ‘go-for-war campaign, perhaps led him to the ‘end of the road’ for his capacity as Trump’s national security advisor because of his war mongering instincts rejected by the Republicans themselves.
His role as the US permanent representative at the UN with his hardline approach did not contribute much to Washington’s credibility. Pompeo’s non-hard-evidence based statements alongside his obstinate president are now proven as less credible in a public appearance, especially after his suggestion on the injection of disinfectant for corona reduction. Trump’s mannerism is quite distinct from the measured utterances during the Obama and Clinton administrations, even though they too continued the American ‘we know it’ agenda. ‘We know it’ is no longer an assumption to get into the war rhetoric when its population is under a ‘death wish’ and the scenario of one state having a lockdown while the adjacent state is reopened ‘business as usual’. A real mockery of the state of the art of the federal and the state administration and governance. It’s time for the US also to rethink its political arrangements with federal-state relations.
There is displeasure towards the autocratic and what seems like a despotic Central Communist Party (CCP) of China and its regulated life of its citizens, yet they believe that they have governed the nation and led people to prosperity. Compared to China the laxity of an administration in the US which is considered a blueprint of democracy with federal and state conflicts displayed certain deficits in governance and the levels of power-sharing and the limitation of the president himself during this health crisis. Whatever the discrepancies between the two systems, the Chinese authorities must be truthful about what happened in Wuhan. They must not hide but be brave to prove that Morrison and Pompeo are wrong about their presuppositions. There is no point in ‘hiding one’s head in the sand like a camel’ trying to do it. Humans make mistakes and if it was a laboratory experiment error then Beijing must say that it might have been the case. The global community has the right to know what happened in Wuhan if such did take place. China can rise above from this speculation and accusations now leveled against them. They can appoint their own internal mechanism but respect the right to the truth by the people who have died in this pandemic globally and in China too.
Australia and the US must be cooperative with China not on a war footing but on a diplomatic gear and that it confirms that they are real statesmen and stateswomen. If they say that Beijing is incorrigibly an evil regime, then they should prove that the so-called ‘good guys’ are not on the same production line. The world wants to see and desires honest leadership, not one at the press conference or at the briefing sessions, and yet another position in close doors.
The so-called ‘group of 5 eyes’ or G20 letters by Morrison will have no effect if they isolate China at this point of time. Punitive justice was how the Wild West and also convict imports into Australia was tamed originally, but both these groups must admit that they over the years have opted for civility with restrains and commitments. Hence they must also focus on restorative justice thinking. China will learn or eventually get educated but not necessarily by Australia or the US. Because they are not so good teachers in history and in how they handled their natives. It’s a bitter history with a stubborn dark side to it.
Baby and Bath Water
Post Deng Xiaoping era is a new China that the entire world began engaging with and with lucrative investments. Who wants War?. If that happens then it might be a major World War with untold devastations. Some de facto, argue that it’s already begun with such a tragic human fatality rate. Tibet is already under Beijing (the writer was there in Tibet over 10 days surveying the impact in early 2000), so shall Taiwan and Hong Kong with easy access to the politically desirous CCP oligarchs. The war rhetoric of Trump and Pompeo perhaps remain at a speculative stage at this point if they care about American interest because the world no longer considers the US as a world leader. PM Morrison must read more regional politics for his edification as Australia’s leader of that young nation and reflect a bit more on the aboriginal wisdom. Canberra politicians can learn a lot and realize that they are more Asian geopolitically even though their psyche is still Euro American. They must make China their ally, not an enemy. All big and small globally must understand that they ‘cannot afford to throw the baby with the bathwater’.
Shanthikumar Hettiarahchi 05 May 2020