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HomeOpinionGlobal PrintChina is feeling the heat over Covid-19 — from Japan to Australia....

China is feeling the heat over Covid-19 — from Japan to Australia. But India’s hands are full

As US and China trade barbs, battle-lines are being drawn. Traditional US allies like Australia and Japan have taken a tone Beijing won’t appreciate.

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The news of 22,000 Americans dying from the coronavirus over the Easter weekend has given way to a crescendo of international criticism against the “Chinese virus”.  But only days before, China announced it was going to exclude dogs from its list of animals that could be consumed because “dogs have changed from (being) domestic animals to companion animals.”

According to the Chinese Communist Party’s English news website Global Times,  China’s ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs published a document on 8 April, seeking feedback on its draft National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources. The draft suggests removing dogs from the official livestock and poultry management list of 31 animals, which also includes chicken, buffalo and cows.

The ministry cited the “progress of human civilisation” and “prevention of disease transmission from animals to humans” as reasons for its rethink. Perhaps the global attack, led by US president Donald Trump, seems to have somewhat shaken China’s composure.

As far back as February, as the novel coronavirus spread across the world, China’s National People’s Congress banned the trade of wild terrestrial animals. It, however, refused to ban the trade in exotic animals, like the endangered pangolins, which are reported to have played a key role in the virus jumping species.

With Wuhan reopening after 76 days of lockdown last week, concerns are that its infamous wet markets, like the ones in Baishazhou and Huanan, will once again become the breeding ground of unknown diseases. So far the Huanan wet market, where Patient Zero is believed to have contracted the virus from, remains shut.

Also read: Congress, BJP share tweet unity as US comedian Bill Maher slams China for ‘Wuhan virus’

China’s growing criticism

US comedian Bill Maher in in his take-no-prisoners video, which went viral over the Easter weekend, asked why it was impolite to describe the virus as the “Chinese” virus, as it had originated from the wet markets of Wuhan. He also questioned why the all-powerful Communist Party couldn’t ban the country’s wet markets, considering China’s taste of eating exotic meats had ravaged large parts of the world.

As the rest of the world watches the US and China trade barbs, battle-lines are being drawn. Traditional US allies like Australia, who had stacked up large economic relationships with China are looking askance, wondering if a weakened US will leave them at China’s mercy in the Indo-Pacific.

Sometimes the Australians are using humour to prove the point about the democratic imperative, like this point-by-point rebuttal in the The Daily Telegraph of the Chinese consul-general’s criticism over the paper’s coverage of the epidemic. The article is one of the most-read pieces in recent times in Australia and elsewhere.

Australia is not alone. Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun published a piece from its Beijing bureau, saying China should be held responsible for the Covid-19 epidemic, and “parties which refused to apologise will shoot themselves in the foot.” China’s Global Times was quick to respond.

And as Guangzhou allegedly orders that people of “African” origin not be served in restaurants amid coronavirus fears, chairperson of the African Union (AU) Moussa Faki Mahamat summoned the Chinese ambassador to the AU Liu Yuxi to express “extreme concern.”

Certainly, seismic changes are already taking place in the global landscape in the struggle for supremacy in a post-Covid world.

Japan, noted the geopolitical watchdog, The Spectator Index, noted in early April, was planning to spend $2 billion to help its companies move out of China. Considering the China-Japan economic relationship is only second to the US-China relationship, Japan’s rethink definitely seems influenced by what Trump has been doing.

Not that China is holding back its fire. China’ ambassador to the US Ciu Tiankai rejected claims that China was hiding its death toll from the pandemic. China’s ambassador to India Sun Weidong retweeted a Xinhua video on How China fights Covid. The Global Times has led from the front, with articles like ‘Post-pandemic may be a more enlightened era’ and ‘Anti virus work won’t disrupt China Africa friendship’.

Also read: Had China not been so strict about Wuhan, coronavirus would have stayed in Wuhan

Delhi going slow

But India has kept very quiet, refusing to be drawn into the global furore. External Affairs minister S. Jaishankar has spoken to his counterparts in the US, in Australia and the UK, notably all allies of the US. For some balance, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla spoke to his counterpart in Russia.

But Delhi has let right-wing publications like ‘Swarajya,’ widely believed to reflect the Narendra Modi government and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s point of view, to do the talking. The magazine recently put Chinese President Xi Jinping on its cover with the title ‘Super Spreader’ under his picture.

It provoked the Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong into comment: “It is regrettable some Indian media published articles referring to Covid-19 again as “Wuhan Virus,” “Chinese virus”… Such stigmatisation is unacceptable.”

Her remarks were greeted by a revealing silence in Delhi. Certainly, no one wants to be distracted from the ongoing war against the pandemic. Moreover, there are too many issues for India to take a more assertive stand. At least for the moment, Delhi seems happy to let the rest of the world continue with its argument against China.

Views are personal.

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  1. I’d rather the US form a very strong strategic and trade alliance with India and completely decouple everything from China. We can move some off-shore manufacturing to India. China, on the other hand, is finished in the minds of many Americans. The steal everything that’s not nailed down, and nailed down. ($500 Billion in IP theft yr.) They practice live organ harvesting, have set up internment camps for millions of Uighurs, execute more people more than any other nation, waged covert war on Hong Kong Citizens, destabilize liberal institutions, fund via laundering CCP money for oversees student (Confucius Centers) CCP loyalists that steal IP, rip off third-world nations via Belt Road, …the list is long. The CCP must be destroyed.

  2. Like J AND K WHATS APP must be banned on HOT SPOT area for certain period,so spreading of rumour can be stopped.

  3. Fight the Coronavirus full time, 24/7, and vanquish it first. Blaming China can wait. No need to burn one’s fingers doing what is of the LEAST priority now.

  4. China has to be transparent and should not have Digital Quarantine in its Data sharing . India as a country has to learn that we need to have optimal self reliance ,self sufficiency with local in-country Mfg, adequate farming, optimal food production , energy capacity , cyber security ,, enough health infra and sufficient steel production .

  5. China has to be punished, there is no other alternative. Punishment must be swift. Sanctions and visa ban on Politburo officials, diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, stripping Hong Kong of its special status, expelling China from the WTO…..etc…. world must act fast

  6. The tone of this essay suggests that some country out there cares what India thinks about China or about anything at all pertaining to world affairs. Essays like this are an example of the completely deluded world much of the Indian middle class and much of our media operate in. Nobody gives a rat’s ass what we think about world affairs. As long as we remain a society which attacks its own migrant workers for trying to get home; so long as we remain a society in which people have to compete with dogs to lick spilled milk; where Chief Ministers and others think cow piss is a medicine; and where a Prime Minister is so deluded as to think banging on barthans will drive viruses away, no one will really care. Keep living in la-la-land Ms Malhotra – I guess you have a job to do and a delusion to maintain.

    • @Sankaran Krishna: You forgot to mention an India where people, especially too many Hindus have been made into cowards, corrupt, identity-less/pride less, SICK-ular zombies through the Islamic/Christian invasions, the black British congress Mullas.. The education system is Hindu/civilization-al phobic, erasure or misrepresentation of history/civilization, constitutional restrictions on Hindus etc.. Most Indians have no knowledge of their own civilization or Sanata Dharama/Hinduism!! This was proven a few months back by Sonakshi Sinha when she didn’t know the ABC of Ramayan!!

      Which civilization has ever conquered the world which doesn’t even take pride in it’s civilization??!! Can Indians lead if they have forgotten their own splendid civilization??!!

  7. Chinese doin’t know there is a difference between chinese citizen and the world citizens . You can intimidate your people but not the world.

  8. If at all Jyoti has to write to something every week, she should just report a list of incidents and events and at the end of it, if she feels like drawing any conclusions or making some observations, she should do so only after consulting Shekhar and publish it with his permission. That will be a sensible thing to do otherwise one is left wondering as to how and why she is drawing her own conclusions!

    • @Ramana Murthy – You have NOTHING to say on how the WHO has been praising China which is the epicentre of the Virus endangering humanity??

      How SICK can communists/SICK-ularist’s be is reflected in your highly inadequate, partial & biased comment!!

  9. Because the political party you support and the FAMILY that is corrupt you want to bring back to power. Was never interested in development and created a country which would import goods from china and give loans to fraud industrialists and created a fake economy run by MAUNWRAT. So now MODIJI has to first strengthen INDIAN ECONOMY that he is trying to achieve rather than pick up fights

  10. I am not a Chinese myself, but I feel sympathetic with China on this. Corona is a strange new thing which wasn’t known to anyone. Locusts are a very well known entity ; if a locust attack happens on your crop, can you blame your neighboring farmer for it? If the poor guy says that even he suffered from them sometime back, will you insist, “No, I saw them coming from your direction?” I can trust Donald Trump to to say anything, but “my good friend” Abe too!

  11. Many Indians must have felt a sense of shame and despair to see a poor man in Agra scoop up spilt milk, even as dogs were lapping it up a few feet away. That is the reality check I always apply when our generals and diplomats wax eloquent about India’s rise as a great power.

  12. Bill Maher’s arguments are irrefutable, and it is high time Modi government should develop a spine, and look China in the eye. This wishy-washy diplomacy will only embolden the bully in the neighbourhood.

  13. Not a good time to pile more meat – conventional or exotic – on our plate with the dragon. However, it is for the MEA to reconsider the utility of “ informal summits “ like the one at Mahabalipuram.

  14. India under Modi will never be bothered about bickering between China and US or with any other nations. I am sure, Modi will be more focused on controlling the incidence of Corona virus and stop the spread. Saving people should be target than talking about economy now. Fortunately, India can afford as our buffer stock is more than double as of now and foreign exchange reserve is also in good shape. Also our external borrowings are pretty much under control. Given all these, Modi will be waiting for global business opportunity shifting from China to India.

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