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Minxin Pei

How the U.S. and China Can Learn to Live With Each Other

Mutual anger over Covid-19 will make co-existence difficult. The alternative is worse.

Everybody loses the blame game.  

Everybody loses the blame game.  

Photographer: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

The most dangerous casualty of the coronavirus pandemic may well be the U.S.-China relationship. Faced with the largest global crisis in a generation, the world’s two leading powers have spent their time bickering over who’s to blame for the spread of Covid-19 and who’s handled the fallout better. If left unchecked, the animosities unleashed by this crisis could propel the two countries into direct confrontation.  

In Washington, anger toward the way China initially suppressed information about the virus is sure to fuel new punitive measures. At a minimum, Congress is likely to pass legislation further restricting Chinese access to U.S. capital and mandating reshoring of manufacturing activities deemed critical to national security and public health. Initiatives that had been temporarily put on hold, such as efforts to cut off the flow of technology to Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co., could quickly be revived.