COVID-19 Global Summit: An Exercise in American Selfishness

United States President Joe Biden speaks for a COVID-19 virtual summit on September 22, 2021 in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, United States. / Getty

United States President Joe Biden speaks for a COVID-19 virtual summit on September 22, 2021 in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, United States. / Getty

Publisher’s Note: Danny Haiphong is an independent journalist and researcher based in the United States. He is co-editor of the Black Agenda Report, co-editor of Friends of Socialist China and a founding member of the international No Cold War campaign. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On September 22, US President Joe Biden held a virtual summit on COVID-19 and pledged to increase US aid in the global fight to end the pandemic. Biden’s promises, when taken out of context, seem reasonable. The U.S. will pledge an additional $ 370 million to deliver COVID-19 vaccines worldwide and work with the European Union to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) goal of ensuring that 70 percent of the world’s population is fully vaccinated by the end of 2022 are. The US will also increase its donations of ventilators, therapeutics and personal protective equipment (PPE) to low-income countries.

Unfortunately, the summit was a reference to the selfishness displayed by the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than speaking on an equal footing with world leaders, President Biden positioned the United States as the primary force capable of ending the pandemic. Until then, no humility had been expressed in the face of the U.S.’s disastrous response to the pandemic. The United States leads the world in both COVID-19 cases and deaths.

In addition, history has shown that promises made by US leaders are seldom kept. U.S. policy on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is a major example. In May, the Biden government signaled that it would lift restrictions on vaccine patents to make Pfizer and Moderna vaccines more accessible to the world. This move was largely symbolic as it took the US months to increase its donation to WHO. The result was “vaccine apartheid”. Poorer, non-white countries have average vaccination rates of less than 10 percent of the population, while the US and its western partners stock vaccines to the point where millions of doses are nearing their expiration date.

The summit was thus an attempt by the United States to instill strength when humility is needed most. Biden said the virtual forum is a clear sign that “democracies can deliver on their promises” to improve the global situation. He insisted, however, that the US is primarily interested in its own citizens and second in the world’s population. Such an approach continues the longstanding US trend of politicizing COVID-19 at the expense of real cooperation.

Health care workers admit a patient to a hospital in New York, United States on January 1, 2021. / Xinhua

Health care workers admit a patient to a hospital in New York, United States on January 1, 2021. / Xinhua

The truth is that the “democracies” Biden speaks of the lack of a historical record of fighting the pandemic in the interests of the majority of humanity. The inadequacies of Western governance have been fully visible since the beginning of the pandemic. Democracy has been championed in the US, UK and EU in terms of individual property rights and “freedom” of choice. For millions who enjoy Biden’s version of “democracy,” it has meant the freedom to contract COVID-19 and possibly die with little support from society. A general lack of trust has been sown across the western world as governments abandoned their responsibility to protect human lives. The United States and its European allies have all the resources necessary to fight COVID-19, but they don’t have the will.

Biden did not mention China during the summit and did little to improve relations for robust cooperation between the two countries to take place. Still, China has shown the most resolute commitment to defeating the pandemic of all other major economies. More than a billion Chinese people are fully vaccinated and the central government has given almost the same number of doses to the international community. In addition, China has the most effective public health response to the crisis, as evidenced by its low case and death rates.

In contrast, there is no reason to trust the US to meet the modest commitments outlined at the virtual summit. Public health advocates say the US promise will not be fulfilled soon enough to ensure the spread of COVID-19 is contained around the world. In addition, the US has not yet committed to making the COVID-19 vaccine a public good. This means that the US and other countries seeking access to Pfizer or Moderna vaccines will have to negotiate with private manufacturers at costs that are completely unaffordable for low-income countries. China, on the other hand, has long admitted the opposite.

The US’s continued failure to learn from China and work with China in the fight against the pandemic has been a failure of historic proportions. Biden’s COVID-19 global summit was an exercise in American selfishness that offers no indication that the US will reverse its dangerous course. The US continues to place hegemony over human priorities. While Biden speaks of increasing cooperation, his administration remains committed to an “America First” attitude. This stance leads to policies of endless war, economic inequality and social pressure rather than concrete measures that can really end crises like COVID-19.

(If you’d like to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at [email protected])