While the U.S. has used coronavirus to increase pressure on its enemies, China, Russia, and Cuba have led the world’s humanitarian response. The examples below, far from all encompassing, provide a glimpse into the difference between east and west.
China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak within China was “the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history” according to the World Health Organization. It should come as no surprise then that China has led the world’s humanitarian response to the crisis as well.
This global leadership was on full display during the March 26th G20 conference. China called on all countries to coordinate economic policy to mitigate the pandemic and avoid a global recession. “What China will do in this regard is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic (goods) and other supplies to the international market” Chinese President Xi Jinpiang said.
China has done far more than just issue statements however, it has delivered huge amounts of material aid to affected countries.
In its first aid shipment to Africa, China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. delivered 5.4 million face masks, more than 1 million testing kits, 40,000 items of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of face shields. This aid was delivered to Ethiopia to be distributed throughout the continent. A follow up shipment in early April delivered 500 ventilators and 200,000 items of personal protective equipment. All of this medical supplies has been donated completely free of charge. In addition to this continent wide aid, China has also sent aid to individual African countries.
For example, China sent a 15 person medical team, respirators for intensive care, 500,000 medical surgical masks, 50,000 N95 masks and 2,000 units of medical protective clothing to Algeria.
In South Africa, China sent the government 3 million rands and 5,550 testing kits. Additionally, China is prioritizing raw material shipments to South Africa so that the materials can be assembled locally into low cost masks.
In Zimbabwe, Chinese companies worked in conjunction with local authorities to modernize local hospitals.
In Nigeria, China sent a 15 person medical team, along with medical supplies. China has also sent large amounts of aid to South America as well.
Early in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, China delivered 65 tons of medical aid to Venezuela. Since the global pandemic broke out, China has continuously delivered medical supplies to Venezuela, including 320,000 tests. China also denounced the recent U.S. mercenary attack on Venezuela, giving important political support to the Venezualan government on the world stage.
China has sent aid to Cuba as well. However, one chinese shipment of 100,000 facemasks, 10 COVID-19 diagnostic testing systems (such systems are capable of conducting many tests), and ventilators was blocked by the U.S. blockade.
In Iran, China sent medical teams and over 40 tons of supplies a day throughout March, according to Iranian state media. In early April, China flew an additional 28 flights into Iran to deliver medical supplies. Again, China has given political support to Iran by denouncing the U.S. sanctions that block medical supplies from entering the country.
On March 18, China deployed a team of medical experts and equipment to Iraq to advise authorities on how best to respond to the pandemic. Hassan al-Tamimi, director general of the Medical City facility in Baghdad, said “we have received the equipment and will get trained. We will learn from the Chinese experience.”
In fact, China has even sent aid to Europe.
After the EU imposed an export ban on medical equipment to any non-EU country, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said “European solidarity does not exist. It was a fairy tale. I have sent a special letter to the only ones who can help. That is China,” China immediately responded by sending 1,000 rapid test kits, an experienced six-member coronavirus team, ventilators, 5 million masks, and other medical supplies totaling over 16 tons. Chinese companies have also committed to building two testing labs in Serbia that, once completed, will be able to process 3,000 tests a day.
Even poorer EU member states have had to turn to China for help. Within 8 days of Greece issuing a broad call for assistance, China delivered 500,000 surgical masks and other medical supplies.
Italy, another poorer EU member state, has also had to ask China for help. As early as March 13, expert Chinese medical teams have been on the ground in Italy helping the country deal with one of the worst outbreaks in Europe. These experts urged Italy to adopt more strict quarantine guidelines, advise the Italians wisely took. Along with these experts, China delivered 11 tons of ventilators and other medical equipment to Italy.
All together, China has delivered or promised aid to over 82 countries as of March 20th.
Since the virus was first detected in Wuhan, Russia has played an important role in distributing humanitarian aid. On February 9th, Russia flew over 23 tons of medical aid into China.
Later on, Russia was widely praised for delivering large quantities of medical aid to Italy before the European Union gave any aid to its own member state. Never before in history had so many Russian planes landed in a NATO country. In total, Russia sent over 600 ventilators, as well as personal protective gear, and volunteer doctors to Italy.
A massive Russian cargo plane even delivered medical aid to New York City, despite severe U.S. sanctions on Russia. This aid included ventilators made by a sanctioned Russian medical company, meaning that Russia’s humanitarian aid to the U.S. technically violated the U.S. own sanctions on Russia. “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice” said U.S. President Donald Trump.
Additionally, Russia has delivered test kits and medical equipment to Iran. Similarly to China, Russia has denounced the U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Russia has even given medical aid to the DPRK, another country devastated by U.S. sanctions and military aggression. Russia delivered 1,500 test kits to the DPRK.
Russia has also sent two testing systems to Venezuela as well. Venezualan President Nicholas Maduro said that “without the logistics support provided by China and Russia, it would have been impossible to conduct thousands of diagnostic tests.”
Russia has also delivered aid to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and other countries.
Cuba, as a small island nation that has been blockaded by the largest empire in world history for 50+ years, does not have the same resources as China or Russia to send aid abroad. But Cuba does have many world class doctors it can send abroad in the fight against the pandemic.
As early as March 24th, 24 cuban medical workers were on the ground in Italy. 100 additional specialists trained in ICU care are also slated to arrive.
130 Cuban doctors were also dispatched to Venezuela, along with 10,000 doses of the Cuban antiviral drug interferon alfa-2b.
Additionally, Cuba was the first country to respond to Brazil’s call for help, even though in 2018 the fascist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro expelled thousands of Cuban volunteer doctors from poor Brazialian communities, calling the Cuban doctors “terrorists.” Currently suffering from the worst coronavirus outbreak in South America, the Brazilain government has re-admitted 6,800 of these “terrorist” doctors.
In South Africa, Cuba sent 217 doctors.
256 Cuban doctors were sent to Angola, where they will train 1,500 emergency healthcare workers.
Perhaps no greater example of Cuba’s selflessness exists than its decision to let the MS Braemar seek medical asylum in Cuba. The MS Braemar is a British cruise ship that was in the Carribean when it experienced an outbreak of coronavirus. No nearby government was willing to accept the ship, fearing that the ship’s outbreak would spread to the mainland. Despite the historic animosity of the UK government, Cuba agreed to let the ship dock in the Cuban port of Mariel. The United Kingdom Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra said “Once again, in a disinterested manner, Cuba fulfills the elemental duty of providing aid and solidarity to those who need it.”
In total, Cuba has sent doctors to well over 16 countries.
While the U.S. has sent a pittance of medical aid to it’s geopolitical allies, its role has mostly been to worsen the pandemic, both domestically and abroad.
The largest aid the U.S. has organized is a $100 million package to affected countries and 17.8 tons of medical assistance to China. This is just about the extent of the U.S.’s positive activities however.
In addition to U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, the U.S. controlled IMF denied a $5 billion loan to Venezuela to help fight the Coronavirus. The IMF’s rationale was particularly offensive, saying that the IMF cannot deal with countries not recognized by the international community, even though the Bolivarian government of Venezuela is recognized by the U.N. and a large majority of IMF member states. As if this economic war wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. attempted to start a real war by launching a Bay of Pigs style invasion of the Carribean country. U.S. mercenaries, working with Columbian terrorists and anti-government Venezuelans, launched multiple attacks into Venezuela. This use of proxy forces is favored by the U.S. because it gives the Pentagon plausible deniability, as the Pentagon is currently claiming that the U.S. mercenaries, local agents, and Columbian government were all working alone. Luckily, the multiple terrorist attacks were stopped. During one attack, Venezualan fishermen were able to capture many of the terrorists. One of the fishermen said “the loyalty of the Chuao people is indestructible…Donald Trump thinks he can defeat you (president Maduro), He’s wrong. Here are people that care about you and love you and will always be on the revolutions side. Long live Chavez! Long live Homeland!”
The U.S. has also ignored international calls to lift sanctions on Iran. In addition to Iran’s allies like Russia and China, the European Union and the UN general secretary have also called for sanctions to be lifted. Instead, the U.S. has opportunistically imposed even more sanctions on Iran. According to the New York Times, the sanctions “have made it nearly impossible for Iran to buy items like ventilators to treat coronavirus patients.” Iran, with the support of the European Union, also requested a $5 billion relief package from the IMF, which the U.S. denied.
The U.S. has also continued its blockade against Cuba. According to Cuban Forighn Minister Bruno Rodríguez, the blockade is “the main obstacle to purchasing the medicines, equipment and material required to confront the pandemic.”
Furthermore, The U.S. has continued it’s illegal occupation of Syria and Iraq throughout the pandemic, in violation of international law.
If the coronavirus pandemic has any positive outcome, it is that the U.S. and the west’s international position has been lessened. China, Russia and Cuba, on the other hand, have all increased their international prestige. However, the U.S. has never relied on fair international relationships to preserve its global hegemony. The U.S preserves its power through its willingness to inflict extreme violence on other countries. Because China and Russia are a long way from seriously challenging western military power, this fundamental dynamic is unlikely to change. Still, this different international response to the pandemic provides Socialists a powerful example of the difference between the U.S. and the countries it is targeting for war. This example, and countless others like it, will need to be repeated frequently in the global north to challenge increasing pro-war propaganda.