US-China decoupling unfeasible: US expert

May 4, 2020

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As the COVID-19 pandemic, a black swan event that is exerting devastating effects on people’s health, social order, economy and even state-to-state relations, continue to rage on, voices calling for China-US cooperation are rising worldwide. How will the pandemic reshape China-US relations? Can China and the US stop the blame game and join hands in tackling the common threat? David Firestein (Firestein), president and CEO of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations shared his insights with Global Times (GT) reporter Yu Jincui. 

GT: The US has, by far, the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world. It seems the focus of US politicians remains to blame China and the WHO for the current grave situation. Will this continue in the future?

Firestein: As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US has grown, a growing number of US political figures and journalists have sought to place the blame for the pandemic squarely on the shoulders of China and, more specifically, the Communist Party of China. In both the political world and the press and social media, pronouncements of China’s presumed “guilt” with respect to COVID-19 are now a daily, almost hourly, affair. Both Republicans and Democrats – and conservatives and liberals more generally – are now framing the matter this way, with Republicans generally considerably more negative on China than Democrats. The sheer volume of negative commentary regarding China in the US at this time is arguably unprecedented – perhaps even surpassing the post-1989 period, when the last paradigm shift (and enduring negative shift) in US views toward China occurred. 

US public opinion regarding China has moved into territory not seen in over 30 years, with about two-thirds of Americans now stating that they view China negatively, which suggests that the message that China is largely or principally to blame for the current pandemic is, indeed, having an impact on how average Americans see China.