Infectious diseases are global challenges that need global solutions. The state of US-China relations are so hostile at the political level and increasingly at the public level, that the kind of pragmatic cooperation needed is lacking to deal with COVID-19. Many programs started under President Bush and continued under President Obama to increase on-the-ground knowledge and cooperation were dismantled under the Trump administration which created an environment where neither nation trusted the other would be there to help.
When COVID-19 arrived, the Chinese CDC reported the outbreak to US CDC and the World Health Organization, but were slow to inform the Chinese people. China and the US had dealt with the SARS virus but this was different in that transmission was by asymptomatic people as well as symptomatic people which meant the disease was seeded much earlier and much further than originally thought. Close cooperation among scientists and doctors is needed to tackle COVID-19 and the second and third waves that are yet to come.
To further complicate the response is the already tense relationship aggravated by the trade war between the two countries, one with a president concerned about re-election and the other concerned with solidifying his lifelong tenure. Each politician has tried to divert criticism by blaming the other; both have supported and amplified wild conspiracy theories about the other.
Experts from UC San Diego and Villanova met remotely on April 9 to discuss the history, the current tension and the potential for cooperation in the fight against this common enemy. Susan Shirk, Victor Shish and Deborah Seligson tackle the issue from all angles.