Siege to the World Health Organization (WHO), tougher embargo measures against Huawei, the global vaccine race, these are some of the US-China cold war bulletin reports that saw increasingly harsh tones in the diplomatic narrative between the two sides.
A first strategic front is the race to be the first to discover and produce a COVID-19 vaccine. The Pentagon has also mobilised to coordinate the efforts of the US public sector and private industry to the vaccine race.
After the FBI’s accusations of Chinese espionage against American health laboratories, and the clash between Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump on who will be entitled first to the vaccine of the French multinational Sanofi, the global race to those who cross the finish line in the vaccine race now looks like the space competition between the US and the USSR in the 1950s and 1960s.
The two leaders of the US task force – which explicitly recalled the Manhattan Project for the atomic bomb – are Gustave Perna, a four-star general who commands the entire log structure and Moncef Slaoui who headed the vaccine division in the pharmaceutical multinational GlaxoSmithKline.
The move on the future leadership of the WHO has also become a battleground between the two superpowers.
Yesterday Trump showed a sudden flexibility – after the announcement that the US would cut all funds to the United Nations (UN) health agency for its alleged collusion with Xi Jinping – the US President said he was willing to “go down to level of Chinese funding “.
This was considered by analysts a double-acting gesture. On the one hand, it serves to remind Trump’s supporters that despite the accusations of isolationism the US has massively contributed with 400 million dollars a year to the WHO. On the other hand, Washington, keeping a tap of the funds open, albeit with a drastic reduction, remains involved in the games for the succession to the agency.
The current WHO director general, the Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is accused by the US of having helped Beijing hiding the pandemic.
Elected in 2017, his term should last two more years but the maneuvers to replace him have already begun.
Meanwhile, Beijing accuses the Trump Administration of not paying an even share of the UN budget.
The chances of the trade dispute also rising.
US-China relations have deteriorated to their lowest ebb in decades. Washington has intensified its trade war with Bejing, announcing that it would restrict the ability of the Chinese Huawei, which it is considered by US intelligence agencies a “national security risk”, to develop products abroad that use US technology.
Trump said on Thursday: “Cutting the whole relationship with China would save 500 billion.” Put this way it seems to allude to a sort of permanent shut down close to a break up in diplomatic relations, or a total embargo. In fact, $500 billion is roughly the annual value of US imports from China.
While this scenario is highly unlikely to happen, it is certain it will be a theme of Trump’s election campaign.