CULTURE China-US medical ties immune to decoupling talk amid pandemic


China-US medical ties immune to decoupling talk amid pandemic

Global Times

07:41, April 29, 2020


(Photo: Global Times)

Hawkish US politicians continue to push for China-US decoupling to reduce the interdependency of the two major powers due to their hostility against China. Still, the cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 between China and US scientists has not been impacted, and experts of China-US relationship in the two countries also urged that the trade ties should not be decoupled as the less interdependency, the more risks of strategic conflicts. 

Scientists from China and the US are teaming up to investigate the origin of COVID-19, despite US conservative politicians groundlessly accuse China for failing to cooperate with the outside world to stem the disease. The cooperation with US counterparts, which is based on the scientific spirit, has not been impacted by the political campaign against China launched by the Trump administration, a Chinese scientist on epidemiology said.

Lu Jiahai, vice dean of the Public Health School of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, told the Global Times on Tuesday that his team which specializes in Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) has already cooperated with US scientists of Columbia University since 2018 to track different types of EIDs. Their cooperation to trace the origin of COVID-19 started in early February.

Ian Lipkin, Lu's partner in the US and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, told the Financial Times that he was working with Lu's team to determine whether the coronavirus emerged in other parts of China before it was first discovered in Wuhan in December. 

The effort relies on help from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, FT reported on Monday. 

Most EIDs come from animals, and there is a consensus of scientists that COVID-19 came from a bat. But how animal-to-human transmission happened remains a question, and we are trying to determine whether there was an intermediate host between bats and humans, Lu said. "We will conduct the investigation in China, and Prof. Lipkin will do the same work in the US." 

"The China CDC is interested in learning as much as it can about the origins [of] these types of viruses," Lipkin, who is also a virologist who worked on the 2003 SARS and 2012 MERS coronavirus outbreak, told FT. "We share whatever we learn with the entire scientific community."

Zeng Guang, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times that the US has found deaths from the COVID-19 in early February, and there could be more patients or deaths from the virus even in January and December last year. So international cooperation to trace the origin is necessary.

Dangers of decoupling 

The work of Chinese and American scientists has not been impacted by the politicizing and blame-shifting in the US against China so far. But China-US trade relations are in danger as Washington hawks are trying to decouple the bilateral ties and weaken the interdependency of the two countries. 

Many US hawks are now calling for ending or heavily limiting trade with China after the coronavirus crisis subsides. The Washington Post reported on Friday that leading Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham, are demanding that China pay financially for what they allege was "a cover-up of the lethal coronavirus outbreak that ultimately brought the US economy to a near halt, erasing more than 26 million American jobs and costing the federal government trillions of dollars in emergency spending."

"Key lawmakers want US President Donald Trump to cancel the $1 trillion-plus US debt to China and to push companies to relocate their medical product supply chains to the US," the post reported.

But reasonable and calm voices remain in the US, warning that decoupling would be dangerous and unrealistic. They said the two major world powers should continue to work together despite increasing competition. These include renowned political scholars Ezra Vogel and Joseph Nye of Harvard University.

Nye, a former Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said that "the US and China developed good cooperation after the SARS epidemic, and we should restore and enhance that with cooperative scientific-medical projects."

Even if the pandemic has slowed economic globalization, ecological globalization will continue. It is driven by changes in the technology of transportation and communication which will not stop, he said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Sunday.

Vogel, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard, told the Global Times in January that "the general public doesn't know enough about the China-US decoupling, and they are worried about it. But for those who are informed, we believe decoupling is impossible. In some cases, the two countries may decouple, but the decoupling will not take place in a significant way."

"China and the US are in the same boat, so we must work together," he stressed.

The Washington Examiner also said in an opinion piece on Saturday that while free trade isn't realistic given the reality of the US' "adversarial relationship with China," to embrace such extreme economic nationalism and protectionism would harm low-income people the most.

Clark Packard, the Trade Policy Counsel of R Street Institute, a Washington-based think tank, stressed that protectionist policies against China would hurt the working class and lower-income consumers the most, the Washington Examiner reported.

"[American businesses] would lose a significant customer base if we eliminated trade with China," Packard warned. "And American consumers would see prices increase."

"Countries that have trade and investment ties are less likely to go to war," Packard explained. "So, we should be skeptical of the hawks in the US saying it will make the US safer if we cut trade from China. I think history has proven that to be exactly the wrong idea."

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