Tiny hands Trump has never hidden his contempt for China and, in renewing his attacks wrt its handling of the coronavirus crisis, he seems intent on raising the international temperature between the two powers. By claiming to have seen direct and “enormous evidence” that Covid-19 is both man-made and was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Trump is now clearly drawing trade battle lines to be fought by pandemic proxy. Notwithstanding his assertions all being repudiated and contradicted by the whole independent US intelligence community, he remains very much on course for re-election as his core base of evangelicals, cultural conservatives and white working class are unshakeable and resolute.
Perhaps the difference this time around is that China are not taking his accusations lying down and a new breed of Jinping envoys and emissaries, known as ‘wolf warriors’, are prepared to hit back at any criticism, perceived, imagined or otherwise. Determined to fight fire with fire, they’re combating Trump’s spurious claims with their own propaganda that the virus was in fact brought to Wuhan by US soldiers participating in the World Military Games. Needless to say, this is being treated internationally with as much scepticism as Trump’s disinfectant hog-wash but it must be realised that both nations, and both leaders, are playing only to their domestic audience.
Trumping the isolationist card further afield, the wolf warriors are also targeting others: “maybe the people will say, why should we drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef” and warning more that Chinese tourists and students might “have second thoughts” about going there.
On a worldwide level, the Covid crisis, will fast-forwarded the oft-predicted and anticipated global trade confrontation between these two superpowers. Borders have been closed; global supply chains have been disrupted; population movement has largely ceased; prices have risen sharply; currencies devalued, investments diminished; trust vanished, cooperation non-existent. A collective sharp intake of breath has been taken by the world.
Closer to home our own Brexit video negotiations appear to be in equally poor health. Michel Barnier is accusing the UK, for not conceding the point of a further extension due to the pandemic, of pushing the talks to the very edge of a no-deal. In reality, with any extension needing to be signed and sealed by the fast-approaching 30th June, the crisis has further highlighted the two entities are negotiating fundamentally different future projects, and they are going to collide, not collaborate. For good or bad, we are about to get the tory right’s no-deal Brexit at the moment of unprecedented economic stress and risk, of greatest vulnerability.