Trump likes to call it the China virus. In early March we could almost have acceded to that claim. But since then it is the Trump virus all the way. The Trump virus spreads via misinformation, mismanagement, and plain old stupidity.
Exactly. It’s the Trump-driven, GOP-sanctioned division that has rendered this nation incapable of properly reacting to the virus - or any other unusual event for that matter. The Romans used to say “divide et impera”. That was meant as an offensive strategy. We have applied it to ourselves and fumbled on the defense. By allowing ourselves to be divided, we have allowed the virus to ravage. Our enemies out there will have taken notice. They will have observed that we are incapable of responding to asymmetric threats.
So, in addition to screwing up the Coronavirus response and needlessly killing thousands of Americans, Trump and the Republican party have effectively weakened the nation as a whole.
Thanks very much!
America is an experiment. China is an ancient civilization finding great rejuvenation. America is a watered down Europe with extra obese people without healthcare. Let us not kid ourselves into thinking we are competing against a wise and ancient civilization. It was good while it lasted though.
There are many things we don't know about the new virus. Many comments allude to the successful containment in Thailand by wearing masks but this may not be the entire story. In fact, all countries along the Mekong including Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have a relatively low infection rate.
While I agree that our "leadership" (if it can even be called that) in the US during this crisis has failed us miserably, I think that the title associated with this article are troublesome, and exactly the kind of rhetoric that the far-right likes to use against the left. They think we want to be like China or have "buddied up" with them. This article does nothing to qualm those fears, but rather adds fuel to the fire.
China has already invaded us and is in the process of taking over from us as leading world power.
To extol China right now is sort of like extolling Italy in the late 1930's because the trains ran on time.
Frankly. Mr Friedman's future for America appears to be a more competent dictatorship, than more competent democracies.
What is depressing is that in a world where people can both vote and fight COVID. Mr Friedman seems to want to get rid of the voting.
He hates Trump not because he is an authoritarian. But because Trump is an ineffective Dictator.
Though it may comfort you to think so. China mounted a coordinated national response. China's leadership gave a consistent and science based message to her citizens. Chinese citizens also have a great deal of pride. Not to mention a culture of caring about the whole and not just the self. But if it makes you sleep better to think of them as cowed thralls...
I regard as to be utterly and completely fatuous ANY comparisons between the USA -- a country where people have the right to vote, express opinions, assemble in protest and question authority -- and China, a totalitarian power.
How can people think Trump did such a great job with Covid, when he couldn't even protect himself and his wife, after saying we have rounded the corner, and other equally ridiculous statements?
Con man and a liar.
If we only had their form of government... Sigh
Evolution, the survival of the fittest, applies to nations as well as to species.
Avoiding and winning wars among nations is not the only national survival issue. Within a nation, hostility and accommodation among internal factions affects survivability. The flexibility to respond to change is also a factor for national survival.
Mr. Friedman attributes the failure of the US to contain the coronavirus pandemic to an ineffective leader. The blame lies with far more than a President who was elected by the Electoral College and rejected by the popular vote. It lies with the entirety of our governance and a large, but not majority, proportion of the electorate.
Our Constitution establishes an archaic federal structure of ill-proportioned states. It establishes a federal government of administrative, legislating, and adjudicating branches that are burdened with the hubris of 200 years, vulnerable to two-party politics, and unresponsive to the will of the people.
Trump has accused china of hiding facts and not having done enough to prevent spread of virus. But what did Trump do even after knowing the seriousness way back in early February? At least,China introduced very tough mitigation measure even if they seemed drastic. Americans still do not abide by basic precautions . To expect them to agree to a complete lockdown(as in Wuhan) would be unimaginable. So, it is either liberty or freedom. When it comes to a pandemic, sacrificing liberty(as in Wuhan,China) can give freedom to have a normal life sooner than later( again,as in China).
The message is: "You don't deserve freedoms if you can't effectively control COVID-19". Sad.
"In the meantime, Russia and China, please do not invade us right now. We aren’t who we used to be."
No kidding. It is useless to think back to WWW II longingly. The 25 year old Americans of 1942 were nothing like those of 2020.
Remember JFK's "ask what you can do for your country"? And young Americans joined the Peace Corps. Are today's young Americans anything like that?
Trump is only part of the cause. The fact that any Americans voted for him and, amazingly, still support his re-election, is the real cause.
It’s not the young who are the biggest problem. It’s the older people who keep trying to solve 2020 problems with 1950 solutions.
China Got Better. We Got Sicker. Thanks, Trump.
A proper epithet for Mr. Trump's trade war.
China got better, we got sicker - Wasn't this inevitable Mr. Friedman? China was fighting the virus while Mr. Trump was fighting with the Scientific community. China was closed and testing its people while Mr. Trump ordered the country to open and said not everybody should or can be tested. China , South Korea , New Zealand all knew that was one common enemy -The Virus while United States, Brazil, UK were fighting multiple "enemies" while letting the virus spread like wild fire.
If the USA had this kind of abominable political "leadership" and national "unity" after Pearl Harbor, I have no doubt we would have lost WWII.
For this we can thank Trump, GOP, Fox News, AM talk radio, bloodsucking corporate fat-cats, irresponsible social media, anti-science right-wing reactionaries, and our imbecilic anti-social individualism.
Goodbye to 20th century American excellence and exceptionalism. Hello Balkanized banana republic.
Finally. Finally, a piece, albeit an opinion piece, in the NYT acknowledging China's amazing success in dealing with COVID.
There are multiple sources of American failure, some of which are catalogued here. We have chosen to essentially ignore the greatest, and possibly most effective , public health mobilization of all time. China gave us a playbook. We need to look at it. We don't have to follow everything in it but we have to acknowledge that it worked and we need to understand why. But we continue to deny their success as well as science. And we insist on conflating acknowledging the soundness of their approach with supporting all of China's policies about everything. And here we are....
This column doesn't mention enough the real reason for our virus debacle. It is not that Americans are too individualistic, its that we have an incompetant president who modeled none of the correct behaviors, turning mask wearing into political partisanship when it was always just medical truth.
An eight grader could have led the country better.
China or Russia might take this moment of vulnerability to invade us. After all, not only is Trump's government incompetent and non-functional, but most of the military leaders are currently quarantined. Not to worry. We are protected from hostile actions by Trump's incompetence. Neither China nor Russia would want to do anything that spoils Trump's chances of getting re-elected.
Dear NYT & Thomas Freidman
Regarding "China got better". Please refer to an opinion article by Robert Reich in 2016 (I think in The Guardian) which was headlined "Trump will make China great again!". Well done Prof Reich! I put the article up on my College office door and someone quickly removed it.
Surely by now we should all understand that we can't go back to work until virus transmission is decreased to near zero, as the Chinese have done. China was able to reopen because they first locked down hard to bring the virus under control. As a consequence their economy is growing again, kids are back in school, and their society is back to a new normal.
China is no paradise. But, Trump and the GOP's handling of covid is pathetic. Trump caught covid and made all his staff sick. There is some chance it was all staged though, so he could get a sympathy vote.
"That used to be us!"
Yes Mr. Friedman, that used to be us and we used to be great. We helped save the world from fascism and tyranny; we created the greatest economy the world has seen; and we were a beacon of hope to millions of immigrants.
'Make America Great Again' has been a soothsaying that really means Make America Less.
Even the Roman Empire has its downfall, maybe from overextending itself or maybe simply because their water systems were lined in lead and most suffered lead poisoning.
Ironic that the downfall of America will be traced to a virus that no one can see, touch or feel.
Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor.
This title helps Trump. Negative (sounds anti-American to many) and appearing to be pro-China. So many in the media fall for Trump’s trap. They talk about him constantly and make statements that offend people.
Anyone who trusts any information coming out from China should never be trusted.
Mr. Friedman: Your last paragraph about China invading us - this feeds into general anti-Chinese rhetoric that Trump and his administration have used (to deflect from their incompetence). A lot of Asian-Americans are suffering as a result of this rise in anti-Asian sentiment and your article isn't helpful.
“Authoritarian” is a word of infinite flexibility. It is a word only used to describe others, never oneself. It is a word of intellectual laziness. China was able to contain the pandemic, not because of its “authoritarian” tools, the same tools every Western government also uses, but because China has the trust of its people. This trust has been built by 40 years of continuous improvement in the lives of the Chinese people.
The government of China has the highest approval rating on earth, 85% according to Pew Research. The US approval rating is just 31%. This year, China became the first country in history to eliminate extreme poverty – income less than $2 per day. This fact has barely earned a mention on the pages of the New York Times.
My friends in China are astonished when I tell them that very many Americans still refuse to wear a mask. They cannot understand this level of public distrust. This distrust in government was not caused by Trump. Just the opposite, Trump was caused by public distrust.
Trump wants to make Russia our friend and China our enemy.
But Trump has it backwards. The US and China are working together as the two leading world economies.
Russia, on the other hand, makes nothing that the US needs, and exports only oil and gas. Russia is not a major economic power – its economy is about the size of Canada’s. Furthermore, Vladimir Putin is working actively to disrupt America, and to re-elect Trump.
Regarding COVID, under ANY normal president, the US would have been working with China, allies, and international agencies last November and December, to prevent this pandemic to begin with. But Trump does not work well with others.
For our own economic future, we need to work closely with China, and we should work to contain the political influence of Russia.
There can be no progress in health or economics until Trump leaves office in Jan. 2021.
china can handle it better because china experienced so many pandemics and disasters in its 4000 years recorded history, it has learnt its lessons as how to survive a pandemic and disaster: make sacrifice, discipline themselves, citizens listen to the government, government listen to the experts and most importantly, only the learnt , intelligent and capable people can be selected to hold government positions. actually, most asian countries do the same as china does.
Trump is merely another symptom of our demise; not the cause. He'll be gone soon and it won't make any significant difference.
Good luck America.
Now, the Trump administration acknowledges that they fully support "herd immunity".
This will not only cause more sickness and deaths but place an additional major strain on the economy.
Until people see the corpse holding refrigerator trucks on their street, many of our fellow citizens will continue to ignore the virus.
China even though a communist country with some limited free market elements has more competent leadership than us. Yes, they made some mistakes at the outset. But were able to make adjustments and had the ability to employ a national strategy rather quickly in an uniform fashion. Also they didn't have a citizenry that took a hostile view to a simple directive of wearing a mask. They didn't have a leader tell his base to liberate Michigan and Virginia because they were trying to enact lifesaving measures. Finally, they don't have 40% of their population trying to attend a daily yet deadly propaganda rally led by a Super Spreader in Chief...where a recently bed ridden president claims to be cured or immune from a lethal pathogen. I guess this what 'freedom' looks like with 218,096[as of today] Americans dead from a criminally inept president who has the gall to want 4 more years with blood on his hands..
The scary thing is that we might look back on this time before the 2020 election as the calm before the storm...
Why would anyone believe China’s numbers - ever?
Why would anyone ever believe Trump is the more important question .
There’re US journalists based in China. Just simply read their reports and find your own truth.
Voting Trump out of power is the single most vital step for restoring the safety and well-being of our country. Vote!
Gone unnoticed: Covid deaths in the US recently surpassed the total number of Americans who died in combat during the Civil War (214,938). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war
Mr. Friedman in his last sentence implores China and Russia to not invade us in our time of incoherence. To which it could be said, the very unfitness and instability of Trump that frightens so many millions of Americans does the same for them. China or Russia might be tempted to take advantage of us right now, but can they be certain of our President’s response? No, and neither are we.
Trump has made it clear he wants herd immunity. His super-spreader events are part of this strategy.
Trump thinks money is more important to Americans than their elderly parents' lives. As Michael Cohen pointed out, it is money that that makes him bow down to the world's richest man, Putin. Trump would do anything for money. Would the majority of Americans? We'll see.
China is run by leaders who are atheists and put their faith in science. The U.S. is run by leaders who'd rather put their faith in the Bible. There's nothing wrong with that except they forgot the part about human compassion.
We are a rudderless vessel drifting in dangerous seas.
Captain Trump is worried about the appearance of the ship more than the safety of the ship and it's occupants.
November 4 promises to be the re-birth of our Nation.
The pandemic did not expose the weakness of the West. The west is not weak.
It exposed an inept, clumsy, useless, unskilled Donald Trump and his family whose base is an uneducated mob who can’t see beyond their nose. The administration, and Supreme Court judges put in place by this president are useless pawns - dream works of a despot.
It's too late. We have lost and China has won. It's pretty obvious. Heck, we can no longer even field an army because 42% of Americans are repulsively obese and the next 30% are just extremely fat. Look around. Even the kids are so fat now. We won't even mention that China graduates two and a half times as engineers as we do or that they produce way more steel than we do. And then, even college graduates here think vaccines are dangerous. We are going down and we won't be coming back, ever.
There is a bad second wave in Europe now with 10 000 cases per million in France for example, 5 000 in Italy, 14 000 cases per million in Spain, but only 4 000 in Germany.
The USA have never passed the first wave and have now 24 000 cases per million.
Perhaps you could elaborate? What "things" should be done differently?
When the world gets back to something resembling normal, they're going to be halfway around the track while we're still at the starting gate. Being an autocracy gives it the advantage in things like that.
@Herry, That's so funny---you really think China has the best PR machine in the world?? No, no, you are mistaken. That would very clearly be the USA.
China's effective containment of the virus, the scale of which as compared to rest of the world in monumental in its effectiveness, showed what many, including myself are reluctant to accept. Its a far more effective administration than any in the world now and we cannot just excuse ourselves by saying they have an authoratarian system. There are many countries with authiratarian systems and none came close to as effective as China.
This isn’t about authoritarianism vs. democracy and individualism. Many democracies like South Korea did fine. Even Canada did much better than us and they are also an individualistic democratic country.
We did poorly because Trump’s team did nothing to stop the pandemic early because they wanted to use it to push through their anti-trade, anti-immigration, anti-China agenda. Early on, the Secretary of Commerce said the pandemic would bring jobs back to North America, the original team to respond to the pandemic was led by national security people who were more interested in attacking China rather than containing the virus, and they used the pandemic to push through extreme restrictions on travel and immigration that are still in place today even as they complain about Democratic governors leaving actually public health-motivated containment measures in place too long.
joe new england
Honest Trump 2020 signs, truth be told, should read: " MARA," or "MACA," referring to Russia or China.
China is run by technocrats and is authoritarian. Technocrats tend to follow science and in China they are going all out on employing digital technology. While the US is not authoritarian the president from all appearances is a fascist and therefore dismisses science because all truth is supposed to come from the fascist leader. Therefore even though Trump knows nothing about epidemiology, when it comes to the Covid-19 he puts himself about the CDC, Anthony Fauci, etc and has made wild statements that unfortunately many of his followers believe. It is easy to predict that Trump's attitude would lead to a national disaster and it did of course being the fascist leader he denies it.
The time of the West is over....The age of East Asia has begun...It is coming to full cycle now.
西方的时代已经结束... 东亚的时代已经开始... 现在正进入一个完整的周期。
As with all of your thoughtful and powerfully simple pieces, I hope The Times will consider translating this one into other languages, including Spanish.
Trump has always done things for his own gain. However in fighting Covid he failed and failed biggly—not only does he "lead" the country most affected by Covid, his own White House is a supper-spreader, and Donald himself got zapped by the virus.
Trump lies, we die.
China? Russia? Invade the US? We're too infected to invade.
中国? 俄罗斯? 要侵略美国? 我们已经严重感染到无法被入侵了。
As usual a very insightful article. America is a sick country and I am not sure that any president, even Biden, will be able to contain the internal rot that is destroying us. Our government is incapable of governing, and it really hurts to see how the Far East, not all authoritarian governments, have infrastructures that should be models for improving and replacing our outdated transportation and communication.
My son had a Trump-Biden watch party in Shanghai (that's in China) invited his work colleagues to see our democratic process in all its glory. I asked him how his guests (all Chinese) reacted - they laughed.... I felt embarrassed.
Alas, we aren't who we think we are. Yep. Far from it.