COVID-19 Origin Tracing and US Cowboy Diplomacy

US should come out of this mindset of witch-hunting and working to strengthen cooperation.

Cowboy diplomacy has a prominent place in American global engagements. It has adopted an instrument to pursue and secure its interest at any cost or by any means. The term was first coined by American press in 1902 to describe the diplomacy of then US President Theodore Roosevelt Jr. He introduced the phrase “speak softly and carry a big stick”. He applied it to tackle the diplomatic issues of his time. He was criticized by independent minds and peace-loving people. Howbeit, the successive administrations happily adopted it and made it a prominent part of their strategies. They refined the phrases according to their needs and preferences.

President Reagan redefined the terminology and said, “talk tough and carry a big stick”. The declaration of the USSR as Evil Empire was the first sign of his talk tough policy and adaptation of cowboy diplomacy. USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan provided him an opportunity to apply it. The victory of Afghanistan and fall of the USSR strengthened the hands of proponents of cowboy diplomacy.

President Bush took it to new heights by using the phrase “you are with us, or against us”. It means there is no talk, only carry the stick. It was a sheer sentence of arrogance, which led to the disturbance of global order. It resulted in the economic crises and ultimately withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and finally Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the US did not learn from the mistakes and failures of cowboy diplomacy. Rather they are trying to find new avenues of its implementation and China is the new victim. US decision-makers are not sparing any area of international relations and working hard to implement cowboy diplomacy against China. They even did not spare the human life-threatening virus of COVID-19. Although COVID-19 requires cooperation, Washington is moving in the opposite direction.

A person walks past a memorial installation for those who died of COVID-19 outside Green-Wood Cemetery in New York, the United States, on June 14, 2021. (Photo/Xinhua)

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the US has launched a comprehensive campaign to malign China. It is happening at the highest level of the US government. First, President Trump and Secretary of States Mike Pompeo were steering the campaign. Now President Biden and his administration have taken over the job. President Trump and Pompeo started to call it “China virus” and told some countries to support it. The campaign even continued while the US suffered the most severe wave of COVID-19 in 2020. The Trump administration spent more time in blaming China than making efforts to control the spread of the virus in the country. The US achieved nothing except the devastatingly sharp increase in infection and deaths.

It had been expected that Biden would change the practices of his predecessor Trump and bring changes to US policies on fighting COVID-19. But it doesn’t happen. It just seems that only the hands are changed and the policy is the same. The Biden Administration has accelerated efforts to blame China. They mobilized resources to create confusion and undermine efforts to counter the COVID-19. Although the Biden administration is reversing many policy initiatives of the Trump administration, China is a constant factor for both administrations. President Biden is portraying himself as the champion of anti-China rhetoric and campaign.

A recent example is that President Biden has found a new battleground on the origin tracing of COVID-19. The US government has adopted all tools of smearing campaign to pinpoint China. President Biden has ordered the intelligence community to come up with evidence of the origin of COVID-19 by focusing on China. So, the administration wants evidence from intelligence agencies not from scientists. It clearly indicates that the US has some other motives, instead of finding the truth. There is consensus among many experts around the globe that the whole campaign by the US is to contain China and COVID-19 is only the smoke screen.

Leaders of the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, comprising Australia, India, Japan and U.S., held their first summit via video-conferencing, February 12, 2021. (Photo/White House)

It is an open secret that prior to COVID-19, the US had launched many initiatives to contain China including QUAD, Pivot to Asia Pacific, etc. It also launched trade war, banned Chinese tech companies, and restricted Chinese students to study in US universities. President Trump even said that they would not allow any country to surpass the US in technologies. It is part of the US policy that it will not tolerate any peer competitor and will do anything and everything to eliminate the peer competitor. It is a perfect example of cowboy diplomacy in the contemporary world.

COVID-19 is a new instrument of cowboy diplomacy. Despite repeated warnings of possible disastrous results, the US is sticking to its policy. World Health Organization (WHO) in 2021 concluded that it is extremely unlikely that the virus comes out of the laboratory. It was in response to propaganda that virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Further, the WHO report highlighted that the safety mechanisms and record of Wuhan lab are very comprehensive, and execution of safety measures are also very strict. There is no evidence of leak of virus from the laboratory. The debate on the subject should stop with this conclusion.

Unfortunately, it did not happen as the US government accelerated the campaign against China. Now Washington is compelling the international community to accept its narrative version of COVID-19 and blame China. The US has again urged WHO to reinvestigate the Wuhan lab. However, the US does not like the idea to inspect and study its own virus laboratories. It is quite astonishing that a country that is asking for a comprehensive study of origin does not allow the inspection of its own laboratories. China has asked the US many times to open the Fort Detrick Laboratory for inspection and probe, but the US refuses this proposal.

Therefore, many scientists and experts believe that the US demand on China is politically motivated. It does not have any substance. The purpose is only to malign China. This is another example of cowboy diplomacy. It is dangerous, as it will disturb the scientific origin tracing work which is directly related to human life.

A staff member transports a cargo containing the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines in Manila, the Philippines, June 17, 2021. (Photo/Xinhua)

Despite all this negativity and smear campaign, China is cooperating with the world to combat the pandemic. China has already provided more than 900 million doses of vaccine to others, especially developing and poor countries, and is aiming to provide two billion doses by the end of this year. China has also been providing billions of masks, a huge amount of oxygen generators, cylinders, protective suits, etc. to the world. At the global health summit of WHO in May 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to provide aid of $3 billion to help other countries counter the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

However, it is pertinent to mention here that no single country can handle this pandemic alone. There is a need for cooperation. Thus, it is suggested that US should come out of this mindset of witch-hunting and working to strengthen cooperation. The US is the most advanced country and has the technology to assist the world in the fight against COVID-19. It can deploy these resources to help the poor and developing countries. That will be a win-win scenario. On one hand, it will help to eliminate COVID-19 and on the other hand, it will improve the image of the US as a global superpower.

In conclusion, cowboy diplomacy won’t work against China, as China is a powerful country. China also does not have fault lines which the US can exploit. Thus, there is a need to come out of this mindset of cowboy diplomacy.