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Biden's Campaign Ad & the Missouri Lawsuit Show Parties Have Found Common Ground: Scapegoating China

Biden's Campaign Ad & the Missouri Lawsuit Show Parties Have Found Common Ground: Scapegoating China

This week, the State of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government, seeking “billions of dollars” in damages over the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy. Filed by Trump-supporting state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the suit cites an “appalling campaign of deceit, concealment, misfeasance and inaction” and claims that Chinese authorities are “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world.” This comes only a few days after President Trump said China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic.

The Times notes that the claim has “virtually no chance of succeeding,” presumably on grounds that China is protected by sovereign immunity and cannot be sued on account of the results of its foreign policies, but that’s not stopping the news of the lawsuit to be greeted with enthusiasm in some cases. “Huge news,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a tweet. “Given the lies and disinformation from China throughout this process a very appropriate move. So many lives and jobs lost that could have been avoided! Missouri files suit against China for 'enormous' consequences of coronavirus 'deceit.'” According to Fox News, the State of Missouri hopes to bypass Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) regulations by also naming the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the suit.

Nevertheless the odds are still stacked against the State of Missouri in this lawsuit, making this most likely just another case of political posturing. But as a stunt, it’s likely to please Trump as it plays nicely into his push over the last month to shift the blame onto China after his own actions have been criticized in the press. Hashtags such as #chinaliedpeopledied and #makechinapay have been trending on social media; the 'blame China' rhetoric, however, isn't limited to just the Trump camp anymore: it seems to have crossed party lines. A recent Biden campaign video aimed to highlight the inadequacy of the Trump administration's response to the pandemic but seemed more focused on demonstrating how Biden would've been tougher on China had he been the one leading the response. Some political commentators have described this move as "utterly futile" and an attempt to "out Trump Trump," while others have raised concerns about more possible backlash and violence against Asian-Americans. A few days after the release of the ad, Biden published a tweet saying that "[t]he President needs to stop blaming others and do his job."

Putting the blame on China for withholding information or refusing to cooperate may be convenient politically in helping take a firm stance, but for both Biden and Trump—and the American people—it evades much more important questions, such as why was the US so unprepared to face a pandemic? Questions like these are much harder to answer—they will take time and collaboration between parties—but they remain a much more useful way to prepare for a future outbreak than simply deflecting the blame. But we're in a year of election, so anything that takes time and cooperation, might just have to wait until after November.

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