Big powers put imperialist rivalries before human lives

Instead of co-operating in the face of humanitarian crisis, Donald Trump and other world leaders are using the coronavirus outbreak to advance their own power and imperialist interests.

Trump has insisted on calling COVID-19 “the China virus” in an effort to stoke racism and nationalism. His administration is also using the crisis to push protectionist policies that boost US businesses. As the scale of the outbreak in China became clear in January, his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gloated on Fox Business that, “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”

Supply chain disruptions as a result of the economic shutdown in China have slowed the production of iPhones, electronics and cars.

This has pushed some businesses to seek out alternative suppliers domestically, or look to low cost producers in other countries like Vietnam, Mexico or Eastern Europe.

The US has also moved to deepen the medical disaster in Iran, imposing further ruthless sanctions on the economy of its rival.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has pleaded for an end to the sanctions, saying they made it “virtually impossible” to purchase medicine and medical equipment.

The country has been hard hit by an outbreak that has killed almost 2000 people. The US’s efforts guarantee that more people will die.

Most countries have imposed tough new border controls on entry, increasing the level of fear about foreigners. Instead of moving to test, isolate and treat those infected, they have simply tried to shut them out.

Australia rushed to follow Trump and announce a blanket ban on visitors from China. It followed this with a ban on Iran, shortly after Trump did the same. But it was much slower to target the US, Australia’s imperialist ally. Three times more cases of coronavirus have now arrived with people coming from the US than from China.

But travel bans have not stopped the spread of the virus, with Australians returning from overseas simply carrying it back.

Poorer nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with higher levels of poverty and weaker health systems, are going to be hit hard. The world’s richest countries should be organising a co-operative international effort against the virus—instead of resorting to nationalism and imperialist power politics. Their response is showing how the system puts power and profit above human lives.

By James Supple

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