By Herman Tiu Laurel

War on natural threats, not on man

February 13, 2020, 12:18 pm

THE 2019-nCoV, now named Covid-19,  is the latest in the seemingly endless thread of natural threats to the wellbeing, progress and ultimately, the survival of Man on this planet and its cosmos.

People’s war vs. epidemic

When China declared a “People’s War” against the coronavirus threat, it set, in the words of WHO Director-General Tedros Ghrebeyessus, an unprecedented “new standard” in Mankind’s struggle against this and all such global virus threat.

That new standard is summed up in the word “lockdown” or self-quarantine of whole cities and provinces in China to contain the spread of the virus, thereby saving the rest of the country, as well as the World, from the scourge.

Unfortunately, nihilistic and cynical elements in the global human community persist in seeing this coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to wage a “clash of civilizations and perpetual war” against China, and thereby and diminish China’s risen standing in the world.

Western media’s shifty campaign

China’s struggle to contain this latest natural challenge is beginning to show some success: in February,  the spread of the coronavirus in China shows a weakening trend, a development that is good for all Humankind.

Yet, elements of the Western and allied media in smaller countries continue to wage a shifty campaign to erode the stature of China, using subtle misinformation and half-truths about the crisis to strike at its “system”, its culture, its leadership.

One attack even uses the exotic gastronomic subcultures in China that delight in bats and snakes, pangolins and the like, forgetting conveniently that Asia delights in such delicacies in the same way that one Westerners delight in eating prairie dogs and snails.

Criticizing the “top-down” system

Some Western reports allege China’s “slow response” to the Covid-19 epidemic, blaming its “top-down” government; but most, including WHO, praise the swift actions of China’s top leadership, in particular, the city-wide lockdowns and open data sharing, measures possible only in a “top-down” system supported by citizens.

Nor is it correct to conclude that Wuhan’s local government may have been less than swift in its response, despite the late Dr. Li Wenliang’s “whistleblowing.” As the heroic 34-years old doctor himself explained “the police believed this virus was not confirmed to be SARS” and hence, treated the information as rumors.

After all, the initial symptoms of the coronavirus infection are similar to those of the regular cold or flu, such as coughing, breathing difficulties and fever. Only a trained person, such as Dr. Li, will be able to detect the Covid-19 patterns among patients, thereby triggering the suspicion that this is no ordinary flu.

Viral alert Network needed

Despite the report of some Western and local media, Dr. Li was not, “punished” but issued a warning about spreading rumors, a public risk in itself. fortunately, his reports did reach the higher authorities who then took swift and massive action to contain the disease.

In a way, what happened to the Wuhan local government is similar to what the DOH here faced when it moved Filipino Wuhan evacuees to Tarlac. The Wuhan local officials panicked because of lack of knowledge and fear of the unknown.

In the future, all local authorities – especially in developing countries – must be part of monitoring systems similar to tsunami or earthquake warning networks. Henceforth the global community must mobilize its local governments to realize that detecting new viral strains from infections is critical and that they have a crucial monitoring role.

The H1N1 2009 pandemic

Western media’s disparagement of China’s Covid-19 response is constant and unceasing. In fairness, however, the Chinese response should be measured against the U.S. reaction to its H1N1 epidemic in 2009.

The U.S. declared a national emergency only 6 months later and never quarantined the H1N1 virus at its source by imposing a lockdown. This inaction resulted in 60.8 million cases of infection, 274,304 hospital confinements and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. alone.

The H1N1 virus went on to cause the death of 280,000 to 500,000 worldwide, infecting over 1.8-million people in over 200 countries. In comparison, the Covid-19 today has spread to only twenty-six countries and, hopefully, not many more in the months – thanks in great part to China’s lockdowns.

We must keep in mind too that there are many in the West who do not subscribe the “Endless War” and “The Clash of Civilizations” theories that claim conflict and war as permanent features of human civilization.

Leadership in global crisis

President Donald Trump called China’s President Xi Jinping to express “trust” that China will “defeat” the virus outbreak. Later, U.S. Sec. Mike Pompeo also announced a U.S. $ 100-million donation to countries combatting the virus, demonstrating he said “... strong U.S. leadership in response to the outbreak.”

It appears that the U.S. has realized belatedly that – while WHO has praised China for “setting the standard” in a government’s response to the epidemiological crisis –the U.S. has appeared to be absent in reacting to a crisis of truly international concern.

Whatever the motive, the bid for U.S. leadership in global crisis management would be a welcome change from its current record of being the leader in war-making in modern human history.

Extinction threats

There are more than enough earth-shaking, if not extinction–threatening, threats from the natural and cosmic forces that face Mankind and require global preparedness, resources, intelligence and talents to confront successfully.

The coronavirus is a minuscule threat when compared to the volcanic, tectonic and related tsunamis that our lifetimes have seen kill hundreds of thousands in single events, or even the expected collision with asteroid Apophis when it passes near earth in 2029 and 2036.

In locking down several cities, China is fully aware of the economic sacrifice involved; but by doing so, it has shown its concern both for its people’s welfare as well as the world. And this is what WHO Director-General meant when he said China deserves “gratitude and respect” for its effort to fight the virus.

The ideology of man’s shared future

The ideological moorings of today’s Chinese leadership are founded in an idealist-materialist philosophy that ponders the issues of humanity and the purpose of man; in contrast, the West is essentially focused on the pursuit of profit.

As expressed and repeatedly propounded on in the pronouncements of President Xi Jinping, China’s vision is the “Community of Shared Future” where the world (or Humanity, as I would prefer) works as one towards the peace, security, and prosperity of all.

Midway in the first decade of this 21st Century, China has been stacking the building blocks of this shared future, helping set up the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa bloc) as basis for the multi-polar world, then the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and many others.

Duterte and the shared future

The Yellow pseudo-intellectual Solita Monsod has described President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as a “shoot from the hip” move. Nothing can be more distant from the truth than that.

As a reader of history, Mayor Duterte has been fuming ever since he learned of the imperialist atrocities of the Americans, hence his reference to the Budj Dajo massacre earlier on.

His anger has been fueled even further by his experience in the Michael Meiring “Davao bombing” case where the U.S. Embassy barred him from the investigation when the FBI whisked away from the prime suspect.

President Duterte pivot to China and Russia is a key reform in Duterte’s Philippine international policy. Who knows? It may even save America from itself, that is, it will disarm the warmongers in the U.S. by removing the Philippines as its launch pad for war in Asia while whipping the U.S. into respecting this country and humbling its ambition for the perpetuation of its global hegemony.



About the Columnist

Image of Herman Tiu Laurel

Herman Tiu Laurel is a veteran journalist and founder of think tank PHILIPPINE-BRICS Strategic Studies.