Editor's note: Lionel Vairon is the president of CEC Consulting company and senior researcher at the Charhar Institute of international relations and public diplomacy in Beijing. He is a former journalist (1985-1989), former diplomat (1991-2002) successively posted in Cambodia, Thailand and Iraq by the French government. He is also an author of many books and papers about China's geopolitics, international relations and Arabo-Islamic world. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of People's Daily.
Facing the political, economic and social impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the US has been thrown into turmoil, aware of the searing collapse of its power and credibility at an international level.
Confirming that he is an immature, incompetent and irresponsible leader, President Donald Trump originally stated that the virus was the result of a political operation led by Democrats meant to hinder his reelection, and also accused American whistle blowing scientists of having socialist sympathies and of working together with Democrats.
Consequently, no preventive measures such as movement restriction, mask-wearing and confinement were taken, nor were any medical supplies ordered. Hospitals were not prepared, and are now overloaded. This negligence and carelessness led to the foreseeable result of a disaster for the American people. The numbers of new detected cases and of deaths have now surpassed those of China. Confirmed cases are doubling every three days.
Having ultimately admitted the existence of the problem, which he claimed would be solved in "two or three weeks," Trump now tries to assume the role of a "war chief," stating that if the total number of deaths were to lie between 100,000 and 200,000, his administration will have done a "good job."
However, will these blowhards succeed in leading Americans to forget that a large part of the casualties can directly be attributed to their leader for his absolute irresponsibility? Will they benefit from what Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens has called a "national amnesia pandemic"? Will the public forget that while the crisis was reaching new heights, their president was congratulating himself for his TV ratings?
In Western media, the mistakes made at the beginning of the crisis at the local level by certain Chinese officials who are now being investigated and facing punishments, are attributed to the Chinese political system. Interestingly, regarding the United States and Donald Trump's policy, which could be considered extremely irresponsible, no one is questioning the political system which has allowed the election to the supreme power of a man whose sole merit for being elected is his financial power and his ability to utter lies in an indomitable rhythm. American media have counted more than 16,000 proven lies since he took office.
The president's decision to prioritize the economy over the life of his own people – he initially planned for a mid-April resumption of economic activity, against scientists' opinions, and wanted "packed churches" on Easter – clearly distinguishes itself from China's approach of choosing its people's health despite the predicted economic impact.
Constantly contradicting his previous statements, a recurring behavior since he took office, Trump has now announced an extension of social distancing measures until the end of April.
The US administration's dread of a collapse of the economy and consequent collapse of the international power of the United States reflects emerging strategic analyses that conclude this pandemic and the inability of Washington to define a coherent and credible policy may be a turning point in international relations. China may well be shown as a great country responsible enough and able to protect its own population, and willing to take necessary measures to protect other countries' populations regardless of the economic cost, in contrast to populist leaders such as the American president and numerous other leaders who have since January neglected to prepare for the possible impact of the pandemic.
Mistakes have indeed been made in China, but they are not unique to this country and its political system. This new phase which will witness an amplification of the conflict between the United States and China through succeeding statements, and keeping a cool head and preserving an image of a responsible power is a priority. Flourishing conspiracy theories do not serve scientific truth. The policy of invectives via Twitter only diminishes the credibility of those who use it at a time when populations around the world seek serious and trustworthy political leaders after losing faith in their own. Only those who will resist the politicization of this crisis can emerge as victors, proving both their ability to protect their own people and global solidarity.