George & I

Covid-19 & political reality


TUMBY BAY - One of the most disturbing things the Covid-19 crisis had made abundantly clear is that neither of the two major world powers, the USA and China, have a moral base.

This fact is not just reflected in their respective leaders but in the very systems under which their countries operate.

Instead of a moral base they each have a power base. And both are struggling to impose their power over the other.

We in Australia and Papua New Guinea are largely irrelevant in this battle of wills. We can only hope the collateral damage we sustain is minimal.

Our joint fates are probably to become modern-day tribute states to whichever power succeeds. That is if we are not already.

In a macabre way this terrible crisis has at least dragged into the daylight what we have always suspected.

Both the USA and China are autocracies.

The USA is ruled by a cabal of obscenely rich corporations. The two major political parties are simply wings of this cabal and the president, no matter who he or she represents, is their tame lackey.

China is ruled by a single party. Its imputed purpose is the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese people”. To make this happen it believes it needs firm and consistent leadership.

That’s where Xi Jinping comes in. He is a modern manifestation of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People's Republic of China.

As a leader he cannot afford any internal dissent and has to be ruthless in his leadership even if it offends morality.

Donald Trump’s sole focus during the Covid-19 crisis is to win the presidential election in November.

If this requires the economic suffering and deaths of many Americans so be it. There is no moral imperative in what he is doing.

World newsXi Jinping’s focus during the crisis is to maintain at all costs his authority over the Communist Party and the Chinese people. He cannot brook any form of criticism that might threaten this authority.

Like Trump, he is prepared to countenance suffering and death to this end. There is no moral imperative in what he is doing.

The possibility of China or the USA displaying any moral leadership during the Covid-19 crisis is next to zero.

As nations their sole focus is on tactical leadership and control of global issues.

They are all about wielding power and are not about to share this power with anyone else. They want to control and own the narrative.

Neither the USA nor China has any interest in cooperating with each other to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

The USA is using the crisis to withdraw into itself while the Chinese are selectively using the crisis to extend its influence to other parts of the world – so-called “facemask diplomacy”.

Both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump are mainly focused on their domestic audiences. Trump wants to get re-elected to continue dancing to the tune of his corporate masters and Xi wants to tighten his grip on the Communist Party.

There is absolutely no way that China will entertain allowing an enquiry into the origin of the virus and its subsequent handling of it in the same way that Trump will never allow an enquiry into his belated and disastrous response to it.

Those calling for such enquiries, including Australia, are showing their very naïve and immature understanding of realpolitik.

The USA is going to continue calling on China to come clean about what happened in Wuhan simply for domestic purposes.

It has absolutely no expectation that China might to that.

And China will continue to counter this by muddying the water as much as possible with bizarre disinformation such as the virus originating in the USA.

They will both continue on their selective paths no matter how many people die


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Lindsay F Bond

Was it not that under General MacArthur, troops both ‘marched’ into a Musa mixup and committed to traverse a Kapa Kapa crossing, but at least he held to a need of pushing back a major invading force and made clear enough a lead for folk to follow? Lack of supply and inadequacies in preparation did hamper his commands, significantly until around October 1942.

MacArthur was inclined to ‘lead people on’ (politically that is) for from a two day stop-over at Port Moresby, his public relations staff put forth the image of a leader not “living luxuriously.”

Will it be in future said, POTUS Trump held to a need in respect of an invasive microscopic pathogen, to prevail upon a capability to push back its spread, by making clear the task for folk to engage?

If it is reported he “admonished journalists for asking "nasty" questions”, it may be only a matter of ‘style’, for in Queensland there was a politician often heard retort “Don’t you worry about that.”

For resource reading, see:

Commonly used, verging as an anacronym, POTUS: President of the United States.

Port Moresby note, see Stuart, Ian, 1970. Port Moresby yesterday and today, Pacific Publications, Sydney. Page 140.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Stan Grant is always worth reading and he has a very interesting take on the China versus USA situation.

Bernard Corden

Let's keep our fingers crossed that McKinsey and Company don't have the snout in the trough with Big Pharma.

The incumbent Australian Minister for Disease and the chair of Safe Work Australia both held senior roles with McKinsey and Company.

Philip Fitzpatrick

From the Guardian today:

"Global leaders have pledged to accelerate cooperation on a coronavirus vaccine and to share research, treatment and medicines across the globe.

"But the United States did not take part in the World Health Organization initiative, in a sign of Donald Trump’s increasing isolation on the global stage.

"The cooperation pledge, made at a virtual meeting, was designed to show that wealthy countries will not keep the results of research from developing countries.

"The meeting also represented a symbolic endorsement of the United Nations body in the face of Trump’s decision to suspend US payments and condemn its leaders as subordinates of the Chinese Communist party.

"China and the US have accused each other of bullying and disinformation over the coronavirus outbreak, damaging efforts to secure cooperation at the G20, the natural international institution to handle global health outside the UN."

Bernard Corden

The term evidence-based is quite broad and the quality of the raw data leaves me somewhat perplexed. The scientism typically provides us with more questions than answers, which include:

What is the reproducibility and repeatability of the C19 test?
Which data base keeps the test results?

"Scientific theory is a contrived foothold in the chaos of living phenomena" - Wilhelm Reich

Philip Fitzpatrick

Both Australia and Papua New Guinea have a vested interest in knowing what China and the USA are doing at any given time. It is particularly important to understand what motivates them.

This is most readily apparent in what their respective leaders say and do. To understand the characters of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping is therefore advantageous.

Contrary to the view that references to Donald Trump’s personal habits and behaviour are out of place on PNG Attitude the opposite is true.

To understand someone as powerful as Trump you need to know everything possible about him. The same goes for Xi Jinping. If either one gets out of the wrong side of the bed one morning anything is possible.

The USA and China are in a position to create the most extreme existential changes to both Australia and Papua New Guinea. That these two ideologically driven and, in one case, erratic and irrationally inclined, leaders have such a huge influence on out future is frightening.

Any intelligent reader in either Papua New Guinea or Australia knows how important it is to understand what is happening geopolitically in their region. PNG Attitude provides a unique forum to explore these happenings.

As an example it is very useful to know, as Chris points out, the pushback that both leaders, but particularly Trump, are experiencing from their respective experts and scientists. This is indeed a heartening aspect in this otherwise bleak scenario.

Trump has just suggested that ingesting or injecting disinfectant could protect against coronavirus. He is also suggesting that exposure to strong light may be beneficial. This has left the experts and scientists aghast.

Knowing that the most powerful leader in the world can entertain such bizarre ideas and has no compunction about airing them in public is very instructive. It tells us what we, both Australia and Papua New Guinea, are dealing with and can expect in the future. It is to our mutual benefit to know and discuss these things.

Chris Overland

While I agree with your comments Phil, there is one good thing that has emerged out of this debacle and that is the willingness and ability of the world's scientists and doctors to exchange data and information with one another regardless of the posturing of their government leaders.

So, for example, the Chinese scientists had produced the complete genome for C19 in January and they immediately shared this with fellow scientists in the rest of the world. They have continued to share research data on a routine basis.

Whether this occurred with or without the knowledge of Xi Jinping I do not know, although it seems probable that he sanctioned the exchange of information.

I would guess that there were geopolitical, pragmatic and even humanitarian reasons why this would be deemed a sensible action..

In a similar way, scientists and doctors from other countries, including Australia, have shared their research findings with China and have done so without regard to issues like intellectual property considerations, much less politics.

So, at least something good has come from all this.

That said, you are right to observe that both China and the USA, the world's paramount economic and military powers, will emerge from this debacle with diminished moral status and influence.

China will be justly criticised for its initial attempts to play down the nature and significance of the virus, while the USA has been revealed as a socially fractured and profoundly inequitable country that proved incapable of effectively responding to the crisis in a timely and coherent way.

Quite what impact this will have on international relations is hard to discern at this stage although I would expect that geopolitical alignments that we have taken for granted for years may begin to shift, with a much more independent positions being adopted by countries across the world.

In particular, I expect the schism between Europe and the USA to have widened noticeably, while China's behaviour in the South China Sea during the crisis will, theoretically at least, drive a country like Indonesia into a closer relationship with Australia.

PNG will be left in an interesting position too. Will it continue to move progressively into China's economic and political orbit or will it seek to join with other Pacific countries and pursue a consciously more non-aligned approach to world affairs?

If our government is smart, it will move to heavily reinforce our relationship with PNG, both for humanitarian and geopolitical reasons.

Paul Oates

The first important issue you raise, Phil, is to appreciate what is going on. Having gained that understanding, we should then be able make informed decisions from whatever options might be available?

Any student of history will no doubt then point to what examples have happened in the past as an indication of what will happen in the future.

China doesn’t need or ask for military assistance. It merely requires acquiescence in order to succeed in its quest for world domination. Such is the nature of authoritative leadership that it cannot stop expanding or it will suffer from an implosion.

The fragmented Western Alliance needs internal support and cohesiveness in order to stand up to any threat. We all know a school yard bully will only respect successful resistance.

But to stand up to a bully on the world stage requires clear sighted and transparent leadership. Therein lies the apparent paucity at the moment.

There are always other ways of looking at a problem. But to do that, you must first understand the problem. That is where our leadership must be able to effectively explain what is happening in the context of world power and then to lead our nation of informed people in the best direction for our national interests.

China has successfully utilised all the opportunities it has been given and the advent this new corona virus is a mere extension of that fact. The flow on effects of these ‘wet markets’ where ever they are, have been known for ages.

We are daily finding out just how bad the effects of this particular virus can be and that doesn’t only include the initial infection and death rates. This is where the information about this pandemic from the country and place of origin is so important.

Why is it then that attempts to investigate these facts appear to be so threatening that the requests for follow up investigations have been met with so much scorn and disinformation?

That is the issue that should not be lost track of as those who have and are in control of this information keep throwing up more and more smoke screens.

As an old professor once repeatedly said: ‘Why is this so?’

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