Coronavirus News Asia

US, Australia play good cop, bad cop with China


MANILA – A de facto US-Australia alliance is seeking greater transparency and accountability for China’s role in the global Covid-19 pandemic, with Washington taking a tough tack approach and Canberra adopting a more moderate line.  

The Donald Trump administration has threatened to cutoff support to the World Health Organization (WHO) for supposedly kowtowing to China, while US congressmen ready legislation seeking reparations from Beijing for pandemic-related losses.

On Thursday, Trump said the Covid-19 was the worst disaster to hit the US since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the 9/11 terror attacks on New York. He stopped short of saying China’s role in unleashing the pandemic was an “act of war.”  

In contrast, Australia has pushed a more moderate position, seeking to establish an independent international body to investigate the origins of the pandemic in the Chinese city of Wuhan, while nudging the WHO towards internal reforms to address allegations of a pro-China bias.

The emerging “good cop, bad cop” dynamic, with Canberra nudging Beijing towards greater transparency and Washington engaging in China-bashing and legal threats, aims ultimately to pressure China into acknowledging its role in the pandemic and to build a coalition of willing allies to encircle China on the issue.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not be drawn on what options the US is considering to protect shipping – or to punish Iran. Photo: AFP

In recent days, both US President Donald Trump and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo have relentlessly vilified China, with America’s top diplomat claiming earlier in the week that there was “enormous evidence” that the virus first leaked from virology lab in Wuhan.

He walked back the claim on Wednesday by saying we “don’t have certainty” on the lab leak theory.   

“I think they made a horrible mistake and didn’t want to admit it,” Trump said in a recent interview with Fox News, squarely placing the blame on China as the pandemic hammers the American economy and claims over 60,000 lives.


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