Perhaps nowhere outside the U.S. is America’s bungled virus response viewed with more consternation than in Italy, which was unprepared when the outbreak exploded in February. But after a strict nationwide, 10-week lockdown, vigilant tracing of new clusters and general acceptance of mask mandates and social distancing, Italy has become a model of virus containment.
General view of empty Saint Mark’s Square as the spread of COVID-19 continues, Venice, Italy, April 16, 2020. /Reuters
“Don’t they care about their health?” a mask-clad Patrizia Antonini asked about people in the United States as she walked with friends along the banks of Lake Bracciano, north of Rome. “They need to take our precautions. They need a real lockdown.”
However, U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term in the White House in the November 3 election, has pushed states to allow students to physically return to classrooms, but health officials have expressed caution about doing so in areas where cases have been rising sharply.
People participate in a caravan protest during a national day of resistance to demand a safe, scientific, racially just and fully funded approach to reopening schools during the outbreak of COVID-19, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 3, 2020. /Reuters
Much of the incredulity in Europe stems from the fact that the U.S. had the benefit of time, European experience and medical know-how to treat the virus that the continent itself didn’t have when the first COVID-19 patients started filling intensive care units.
Massimo Franco, a columnist with daily Corriere della Sera, said the virus has shown the U.S. is “very fragile, with bad infrastructure and a public health system that is nonexistent.”
Although European nations have lifted travel restrictions for visitors from 15 countries, they have barred U.S. tourists and visitors from other countries with growing cases from freely traveling to the bloc.
France and Germany are now imposing tests on arrival for travelers from “at risk” countries, the U.S. included.
Hard-hit Spain, France, Britain and Germany have seen infection rebounds with new cases topping 1,000 a day, and Italy’s cases went over 500 on Friday. Some scientists say Britain’s beloved pubs might have to close again if schools are to reopen in September.
In the U.S., new cases are running at about 54,000 a day — an immensely high number even when taking into account the country’s large population. And while that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 last month, cases are rising in nearly 20 states, and deaths are climbing in most.
In contrast, at least for now Europe appears to have the virus somewhat under control.
A worker sprays disinfectant to sanitize Duomo square in Milan, Italy, March 31, 2020. /AP
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump has been at loggerheads with scientists over the country’s coronavirus containment policies, publicly refusing to wear face mask and urging people to get back to work as soon as possible. Trump’s frequent complaints about Dr. Anthony Fauci have regularly made headlines.
Health officials watched with alarm as thousands of bikers gathered Friday in the small South Dakota city of Sturgis for an annual 10-day motorcycle rally. The state has no mask mandates, and many bikers expressed defiance of measures meant to prevent the virus’s spread.
Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who is leading a team seeking treatments for COVID-19, decried such behavior, as well as the country’s handling of the virus.
“There’s no national strategy, no national leadership, and there’s no urging for the public to act in unison and carry out the measures together,” he said. “That’s what it takes, and we have completely abandoned that as a nation.”
Xi-Biden Call Analysis: Cooperation Should be Based Upon Mutual Respect
In the first phone conversation between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies in seven months, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning had a “candid, in-depth and extensive strategic communication and exchanges” with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“On the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and properly managing differences, the relevant departments of the two countries may continue their engagement and dialogue to advance coordination and cooperation on climate change, COVID-19 response and economic recovery as well as on major international and regional issues,” Xi told Biden.
White House officials said Biden initiated the 90-minute phone call, which is only the second of this kind since the U.S. president took office.
There had been high expectations for Biden to improve bilateral relations ever since he replaced former President Donald Trump in January.
Biden’s China journey four decades on
Biden came to China in 1979 as a member of the first delegation the U.S. Congress sent to China. The then senator said in a speech that China’s development was good for the United States.
He visited China again in 2011, and wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “a successful China can make our country [U.S.] more prosperous, not less.”
“On issues from global security to global economic growth, we share common challenges and responsibilities – and we have incentives to work together,” read the article titled “China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise.”
In his first phone call with Xi on the eve of the Chinese New Year in February this year, Biden sent his greetings to the Chinese people. He said he was prepared to have candid and constructive dialogue with China in the spirit of mutual respect and to improve mutual understanding and avoid miscommunication and miscalculation.
Yet such goodwill failed to match up with the actions, according to Yuyuantantian, a public WeChat account that focuses on current affairs. And hostility has been particularly evident in the U.S. Congress.
In recent months, there have been more China-related bills in the U.S. Congress than ever before, with more than a dozen in July alone, most of which recommended the adoption of opposing or restrictive policies against China.
The U.S. has made a major strategic miscalculation on China, said Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, as quoted in the Yuyuantantian article. “It mistakenly takes China as a major strategic competitor and believes whatever China does is aimed at undermining the U.S. leadership and dominating the international order.”
Xi has said China and the United States will have different views on some issues, but the key is to respect each other and treat each other as equals. But the U.S. has yet to learn to do that, according to Yuyuantantian.
‘Whether China, U.S. can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world’
China and the United States are respectively the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, whether they can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world, and it is a question of the century to which the two countries must provide a good answer, Xi said in the Friday phone conversation.
The two countries should bring relations back to the right track of stable development as soon as possible for the good of the people in both countries and around the world, he added.
How to get China-U.S. relations back on track has become a “must-solve problem,” Yuyuantantian commented, adding that the ball is now in the U.S. court.
Washington is gradually losing its reputation all around the world, the public account said. “If it really wants cooperation, it has to ‘get off its high horse,’ face the reality and start an open dialogue with China,” it added.
Through the lens: How 20 Years of Conflict Since 9/11 Changed Afghanistan
The Afghanistan war ended just as abruptly as it had begun. Two decades ago, the September 11 terrorist attacks led the U.S. to formulate its controversial counter-terrorism policy, including its longest war in history – the war in Afghanistan.
Twenty years later, the mountainous country nestled in the heartland of Asia has once again come to a crossroads as the U.S. withdrew its troops, with the Taliban reclaiming the power they lost two decades ago.
Afghanistan has long been a battlefield for global powers, but it has never been conquered, hence its moniker – the “Graveyard of Empires.”
In the series “Through the lens: Afghanistan 2001-2021,” we dive into the scars the war has left on the country, and the fear, wrath and resilience of the Afghan people, in eight episodes.
The September 11 attacks claimed some 3,000 lives, making it the deadliest attack in U.S. history.
The U.S. military invaded the country, already war-plagued and impoverished, in the name of the “war on terror.”
In decades of war and destitution, opium poppy plantation and production have become a major source of income for local farmers. “Either Afghanistan destroys opium, or opium will destroy Afghanistan,” former Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said.
In the protracted war in Afghanistan, no one suffered more than Afghan civilians. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from homes with no shelter and rarely any food.
Wars after wars have made migration a norm for the Afghan people. As of 2021, Afghanistan is the third largest source of refugees in the world, with the number of Afghan refugees standing at 2.6 million. Domestically, 4 million internally displaced persons are still in temporary camps.
In the capital, Kabul, there are only two kinds of people – the rich and the poor.
On April 14, Biden announced the U.S. troop withdrawal would be completed by September 11, marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the invasion. In the months that followed, the country witnessed massive chaos.
How the new Afghan government deals with the wide range of social, political and economic issues will determine how an Afghanistan under the Taliban will be received by the Afghan people and the world.
Editors: Zeng Ziyi, Zhao Yue, Wang Xiaonan, Yu Jing, Zhong Xia, Du Junzhi
Images designed by Liu Shaozhen
Graphics by Yang Yiren
Producer: Wang Xiaonan
Xi Jinping Urges ‘True Multilateralism’ in World’s ‘Daunting’ Economic Recovery from COVID-19
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said the world economy is undergoing a “daunting recovery” which requires “true multilateralism” in the face of fresh COVID-19 flare-ups.
“We are ready to work with all parties to uphold true multilateralism, advocate trust and harmony, promote win-win cooperation, and march with firm steps toward the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind,” Xi said at the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link from Beijing.
The forum – held in Russia every year since 2015 – has the goal of promoting multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year’s session was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the speech, Xi called for the international community to unite. “We need to intensify cooperation in vaccine research, development and production, provide more public goods to the international community,” he said.
The Chinese president also voiced opposition to any sort of politicization of COVID-19 vaccines and origins-tracing.
Extra efforts for mutually-beneficial cooperation
“We need to redouble our efforts to advance mutually-beneficial cooperation,” Xi said at the opening ceremony.
He called for the deepening of collaboration between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union in areas including digital economy and climate change.
The Chinese president also urged the group to embrace a “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” by “narrowing differences” and “building consensus through dialogue and exchanges.”
As Friday marks the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, Xi also called for the defense of the victory’s outcomes.
“The international community must defend firmly the victorious outcomes of World War II, safeguard the truth of history, and stay committed to taking history as a mirror to open up a brighter future,” Xi said.
(Cover: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link, September 3, 2021. /Xinhua)
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