US health hegemonism undermines global anti-pandemic cooperation

File photo: Xinhua

At present, COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe and hit some parts of the world hard. It remains a huge challenge to put the pandemic under control. Two hundred and twenty million COVID cases have been reported all over the world with 4.5 million deaths from the coronavirus. No country can handle the pandemic on its own in a connected world. As the only superpower in the world, the US has put the health of people from all over the world at risk and made global health governance a place of US hegemonism and unilateralism where the US shifts blame to other countries and divides international cooperation on the fight against the pandemic.

Frequent acts of US health hegemonism

On January 30, the WHO declared the coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern”. The US did not strengthen the prevention and control of the pandemic and failed to lead and promote global cooperation in combating the pandemic as a major country. On the contrary, the US sought to marginalize the WHO and used the pandemic to promote health hegemonism.

Under the Trump administration, the WHO became the primary target of US health hegemonism. On February 10, 2020, the White House proposed to slash the funds for the WHO and global health projects in the 2021 federal government budget submitted to the Congress. The financial support for the WTO would be cut by 52.8 per cent from $123 million to $58 million. As the pandemic continued to sweep across the US, the Trump administration shifted the blame to the WHO and intensified attack on the WHO. In April of 2020, Trump announced at a White House briefing that the US government would suspend the funds to the WHO. In May 2020, Trump announced that the US had withdrawn from the WHO and stopped giving any funding to the organization. In July, the US initiated the procedure to exit the WHO at the UN. Despite the blame for US hegemonism from the international community, the Trump administration was always at odds with international cooperation.

When Joe Biden took office, the US announced to return to the WHO in a high profile. However, the US did not reinforce the role of the WHO in global health cooperation against the pandemic, but sought to divide WHO member states to reduce the WHO to a tool of US hegemonism. On the one hand, the US has used the WHO to politicize the tracing of the coronavirus. At the World Health Assembly in May 2021, the US representative doubted the resolutions adopted at the assembly to cope with the pandemic. Regardless of the fair WHO investigation, the US put much pressure on the WHO and attempted to manipulate the proposed second-phase investigation into the origin of the novel coronavirus citing “science” and “transparency”. On the other hand, the US has been selling its own standards for COVID prevention, vaccine production and inoculation and attempted to turn the US standards into international standards. In addition, while claiming to support the WHO, the Biden administration bypassed the WHO and directed the US intelligence community to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Global health cooperation undermined

US health hegemonism has undermined global cooperation in combating the pandemic and failed to stem the pandemic. US violation of international norms and the idea of social contract and US exit from and re-entry into the WHO have weakened the authority of international organizations in global health cooperation against the pandemic and have fueled unilateralism, setting a bad example for global health cooperation. Reality has proven that US hegemonism is the biggest challenge for global health cooperation, which has undermined resource allocation in global health cooperation, pushed the world into the health crisis and brought great losses to the US. The US has reported more than 40 million cases with over 660,000 deaths. The US tops the world in daily new cases with more than 50,000 new cases per day. Under the influence of hegemonism, US politicians are bent on spreading “political virus”, which has cast a shadow over global health cooperation.

On the one hand, US health hegemonism has the tendency to politicize global cooperation in combating the pandemic. Due to US health hegemonism, the US has made global public health governance a venue for competition between countries. In the face of the global pandemic, the US has not only failed to pool its resources together for global anti-pandemic cooperation, but also politicized virus tracing, prevention and control and vaccine distribution, posing a great challenge to global health cooperation. The US resorts to zero-sum game, dodges its obligations and responsibilities, and seeks to dominate the global anti-pandemic narrative by all means, undermining the legitimacy and inclusiveness in global governance. Meanwhile, some US politicians have linked the pandemic to specific races for political purposes to intensify racial conflicts and racial antagonism, leading to incidents of discrimination and violence against specific races in many countries, including the US.

On the other hand, health hegemonism has increasingly become a tool to manipulate global health cooperation against the pandemic. To the US, global health cooperation has been a tool to blackmail international institutions and other countries. The US adopts international norms and mechanisms that serve its own interests, but abandon those that don’t. The US challenges human ethics by employing diplomacy of coercion. At the same time, the US attacks those against it and adopts dual standards for itself and foreign countries, for its allies and non-allies, which has undermined the equity and fairness of global cooperation against the pandemic.

Build a health community for all

While posing a major challenge to humanity, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the idea of a community of shared future for humanity take roots in people’s hearts. Solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapon against the pandemic. Although humans are not immune from the pandemic, solidarity and cooperation can minimize the impact of the pandemic. All countries need to oppose health hegemonism in all forms, any attempts to label the virus, politicize virus tracing, smear pandemic control and prevention, or “vaccine racism” to clear all obstacles to global anti-pandemic cooperation and build a health community for all.

To oppose health hegemonism and build a health community for all, we need to uphold the common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom and safeguard the common interests of all humans. The common values of all humans are shared by all countries, all nations and all groups and the fundamental purpose is to safeguard the common interests of all humans. Health hegemonism is the product of Western-dominated values that not only deviate from the common needs and interests of all humans, but also harm the interests of Western countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught that only by adhering to the idea of a community for all and coordinating common interests of all people and nations, can we successfully fight the pandemic and achieve national interests.

At the same time, safeguarding and practicing multilateralism lies in opposing health hegemonism and building a health community for all. Global challenges require the efforts from the international community, and multilateralism is a necessary solution to global challenges. Global cooperation against the pandemic is committed to seeking global solutions and is an important part of multilateralism. In the face of global challenges, all countries need to follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits so that the torch of multilateralism can light up the road ahead for mankind. China advocates true multilateralism, openness and inclusiveness. China is committed to consultation and cooperation on the basis of international norms and will not provoke confrontation. China is ready to keep pace with the times. These ideas are China’s solutions to global challenges and the weapons of the world to oppose health hegemonism.

Contributed by Xu Xiujun, researcher for Research Institute of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.