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Corona may well be a China crisis, but it will be one which the West pays for

Hypocrisy, confusion and graft seem to be the order of the day in the Trump corner at present over corona and the country which many believe produced it, China.

We are led to believe that Trump was on the verge of signing off a great trade deal between the U.S. and China when the virus started to make the headlines in December.

In fact, in January, he signed the first phase of the deal, which is supposed to protect intellectual property rights and jack up sales of U.S. products in China, but falls short of hammering out a strategy of how to enforce such a plan.

Throughout the same month Politico quoted him 15 times praising China’s efforts to tackle the virus head on and so we’re left bewildered by Trump’s recent references to the virus as being the “China Virus” which anger Beijing and begs the question as to whether the relationship Trump is seeming to establish with China is a long-lasting, genuine one, aimed at boosting the U.S. economy, or simply a fatuous circus organised by the buffoon in the Oval Office who, it is reported, aims to move ahead with the second phase of the “China deal” close to the final weeks of the presidential elections.

But the China question is one which puzzles a great many industrialised nations as some EU countries, like Italy, have reacted with so much vitriol towards China, that many wonder if China’s trading with the industrialised world will ever be the same.

Others, like those who argued that large banks in the UK were “too big” to fail in the 2008 mortgage crisis, also say that the West is not in a position to reboot its relations with China for the same logic.

If we are to leave the U.S. alone and concentrate on Europe, there does seem to be an argument there worth mulling. When you do so much trade with a country which extends its payment terms to you further and further and then devalues its own currency every now and again which ensures that its goods keep selling abroad, then it’s hard to see how western governments can play hard ball at all. UK, which of course is no longer in the EU, is one such example.

The UK press believes though that China owes it around 500 billion dollars in corona-related compensation after a London based think tank estimated that the cost to G7 countries was around 4 trillion dollars.

That puts Boris Johnson, once he regains his strength from being knocked out by the virus itself, in a difficult spot. Does he demand that the Chinese cough up, knowing full well that if they did, they would look for ways to pass the penalty on to the UK consumer – or even be tempted to seek more devious ways to gain a market advantage through technological espionage? Many might argue that Beijing would do this anyway. Others might say that the way forward is in the detail of a UK-China trade deal.

For the EU, there is no such conundrum though. According to reports at the end of April, a leaked report compiled by the EU was re-written at the last moment which avoided any confrontation with Beijing – having all its references which pointed the finger at the Chinese removed. Remarkably, if you can read this without giggling, the EU actually wanted, in its original report, to point the finger at the Chinese specifically about its effective use of fake news to steer critics around the world away from blaming China for the endemic.

Stop laughing. Yes, the EU actually wanted to wave the finger at the Chinese and accuse it of manufacturing and distributing fake news so as to save face and restore its public image. Any of that sound familiar?

It might be, if you ever follow the EU itself. This is the same EU which regularly has debates in its parliament on how to counter fake news – with the result that MEPs firmly believe the EU should pump more money into news agencies which are favourable, politically, to its agenda. The argument seems to be “fake news is giving us a bad name and exposing our corruption, so we need to fund more of it ourselves”. And this coming from an institution which subsidies the production costs of hundreds of media outlets camped in Brussels, whose ‘journalists’ fall over themselves to provide a propaganda service to the EU in their ‘reports’ which strangely never seem to critical at all of the EU machine. Why would they?

Goebbels would have been proud of these fine young men and women as there is a fine example of a modern-day Ministry of Propaganda in Brussels which is running in all the main EU institutions today, draining hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the EU coffers.

Indeed, it was an American media giant’s journalist who scooped the story and got a copy of the original document from the EU before the spin doctor working for the European Union’s foreign policy got her grubby hands on it and removed all the offending references which would have offended Beijing and threatened its trade relations with the EU.

And so, in the coming months, leading up to the European Commission’s new budget being decided in December – where the EU is asking for 2 trillion dollars to be included in it for corona virus compensation – Brussels might be facing a baptism of fire from some member states over China.

Countries like Italy and Spain might argue that China should pay compensation adjacent to whatever sustained levels of trade it enjoys with the block. And this argument is most likely to be argued in the new European Parliament which now has more populist, euro-sceptic MEPs in it than ever before.

The EU, which strives to take more and more power – and money – from central governments in the 27 nation bloc, but which can’t even agree over how the first 540 bn euro relief aid is paid back, is in trouble.

Corona has merely added to its political crisis as citizens of Europe are waking up to its impotence on big matters and how it falls apart when a crisis comes along like this virus.

China is unlikely to come out of this a loser, but more of a winner who will capitalise on Trump’s rancorous political spoils and the EU’s desperation to keep a very divided bloc all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Whether Trump is elected or not, watch how China plays the same game that many EU member states play – signing off legislation for political gains, while having no intention of enforcing it – as the second stage of the U.S. China trade deal becomes even more of a farce than the first one.

Original: Martin Jay – Strategic Culture Foundation