New Delhi: At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world, two superpower nations – the US and China – are witnessing the worst phase of their relationship. The return of US diplomats and their family members to their homes in February, at the face of a two-year trade war, has further ruptured interactions and cooperation between the two nations.
The US diplomatic homecoming during a critical global health emergency has become one of the largest peacetime evacuations of the US diplomatic personnel, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
While the consulate general in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, shut in January, other missions and consulates in Shenyang, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou are operating with 20 to 30 per cent staff. A majority of these employees at the places are local Chinese, the report noted.
The virus pandemic has resulted in over 11,000 deaths with nearly three lakh people being infected. It is being reported that close to 89,000 persons have recovered from the infection.
However, the shocking and damming reports of death and rancor has not stopped the US and the China from being at loggerheads with each other. US President Donald Trump has time and again blamed China for the severity and origin of the virus threat, often referring to it as the “Chinese virus.”
On the other hand, some Chinese officials have reportedly pushed for a conspiracy theory that the US military planted the virus in China. Many have recalled the use of such disinformation strategy and rumour during the pre-1972 Cold War days.
But, this is not it. The US and China are also in the middle of a media war as earlier in March, the US responding to allegations by China even went on to impose a set of visa restrictions on Chinese journalists operating in the county. The President Xi Jinping led government in China on Tuesday revoked press credentials for American journalists working for the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
That diplomatic ties between two world superpowers is not an encouraging sign as the virus spreads across borders and communities irrespective race, creed and colour. The US foreign mission in China is among one of the largest in the world where at least 1,000 US citizens work. Roughly twice that number of local Chinese staff are working in these missions, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Withdrawal of the foreign mission from an important country as China in the east has raised concerns of intelligence and analysis, and more importantly communications between the two largest economies.
The current escalation also comes after relations soured on the health front due to budget cuts by the US State Department. In 2018, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was forced to scale back work on infectious-diseases in China. Annual meetings between the disease control bodies of the two countries haven’t taken place for three years now, the Wall Street Journal reported.
With no diplomatic support or national health intervention system in China, the State Department on Thursday advised US citizens to immediately return to the US unless they wish to remain abroad for an indefinite period. The hard-line stand by the US, which was last seen through the 1980s, has also stopped issuing visas to Chinese citizens.