Is the coronavirus a political weapon?

The global political struggle between the major powers, the United States, China, Russia and the European Union, with their common and, at the same time, contradictory interests, seems to reach a level of irrationality that does not spare moments where, supposedly, we would all expect to see humanity unite in fighting a common enemy.

We have a good example of what I say in the news these days with the coronavirus epidemic.

United States Secretary of State for Trade Wilbur Ross said last Thursday something like this: "The temporary closure of companies in China, brought about by measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic, will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America."

There is an evident inelegance or lack of sensitivity in this sentence. But there is more than that: since Donald Trump come to power, the most coherent element of his policy, in the midst of constant inconsistency, has been precisely attacking China.

In the electoral campaign that elected the President of the United States, Trump had explained his intentions in this matter: from his point of view, China is the main rival of the Americans and the ability of the Chinese to produce cheaper, to attract American companies to their territory and even lead some areas of technological innovation takes strength from the North American economy and steals jobs from its workers.

This view led Trump to adopt a great political aggressiveness towards China, which contrasts enormously with the complacency and, even, support, with which the previous American administrations dealt, starting from the 1990s, with the Chinese leaders. This had been going on since the transformation towards capitalism was implemented by the Communist Republic.

Trump's aggressiveness opened a crisis that threatened the entire global economy but he has already signed a first China-US trade deal, which is perhaps the first step in solving the situation.

Another example of the political use of the epidemic is the threat of a strike by nurses in Hong Kong, demanding the closure of the border with Mainland China. The movement that challenges the Chinese leadership tries to take advantage of the fear of the disease to discredit the leadership of the People's Republic.

This action, accompanied by accusations that, today, seem to be unfounded (with the information we have, we cannot be sure), that the Chinese government was not diligent in dealing with this matter - I even read chroniclers to defend that China, being a communist regime, would rather let people die than announce the existence of the disease in the country to the world - follows an evident propaganda operation that, through the fear that the Asian pneumonia causes in people, tries to indirectly weaken Xi Ji Ping and the its governance of China. The fall in the stock market of Chinese companies drives this movement.

But the political propaganda focused on the coronavirus is also pegged on the Chinese side, with the heroic exaltation of the feat of building two hospitals for 2500 patients, in a few days, the underlining of the government's decisive initiative and the discipline of a country that, with just one executive order, immediately stops all activity in cities with tens of millions of inhabitants, who stay at home, days and days on end, waiting for orders - there is a insinuation of China's superior organizational capacity when compared to western societies, which is, in itself, a political instrument for the glorification of the country's leadership.

And the Chinese government is taking the opportunity to accuse the United States of spreading panic, as it did today, yet again, to discredit warnings and criticisms against Beijing.

And this leads me to this conclusion: is this gigantic alarm about the coronavirus justified or is it infected by the political action that amplifies the population's concern in order to take advantage of it?

Many experts predict that a pandemic left unchecked by the medical services will inevitably one day kill millions of people worldwide.

But the truth is that this morning we had officially registered 17,405 infected with the coronavirus worldwide. There are 362 deaths, but it is also noted that 487 people have been cured.

When compared with the 400 deaths per month in Portugal, of victims of pneumonia, the fatal numbers of the coronavirus are still very low.

Therefore, we have to take the disease seriously, but there is nothing to justify being prematurely in a level of panic. To defend ourselves better, not only against the disease but also against the degradation of society that an unjustified panic or exaggerated fear can cause, we have to demand from our politicians, local and global, more truth and less propaganda about the coronavirus.

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