Trump's legacy in Australia's foreign policy exacerbated pandemic situation

2021-03-24 12:09:06

The Chinese and Australian national flags on a celebration event in Sydney, Australia, on Sept 8, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua] Trump is gone, but his legacy is still in a play and rendering Australia to reel both internally and externally. It is a well-known fact that the incumbent Liberal government has gone beyond the loyalty point to their master and deteriorated its relationship with its biggest trading partner, China. This has resulted in an anti-China rhetoric campaign through various media outlets. The foreign policy of straining relationships with China and Russia under the influence of foreign power has impacted almost all areas of life. However, the suffering of ordinary people in pandemic skyrocketed and Australia has regressed significantly economically, mentally and emotionally. During the month of February 2020, the Australian government in pursuit of a US vision did not bother to take measures at their borders or airports against the coronavirus and let the traffic flow freely which resulted in the start of pandemic. Although at the same time the world had learned from China's experience, and stringent measures like temperature checks were in place on many incoming and outgoing checkpoints. After the failure to stop the virus at the borders, our national ego also kept us away from the strategy of wearing masks constantly. And many of us were of the view that covering the face with a mask was some sort of "Asian" culture and if we had adopted that we would be somehow following Asia (China) instead of the United States, which is superior in medical sciences, without noticing the catastrophe of our role model. As we know that this rejection of wearing masks was an insane gesture by the Trump administration, and by following that path, we were also pushed into the second wave of the coronavirus. The Age reported that union workers had arguments over issues of wearing masks in a call center. By that time, the genie was out of the bottle and the second wave had left us paralyzed. And finally, under compulsion we had to accept the Asian superiority in medical science and proclaim the effectiveness of wearing masks in warding off infection. The Trumpian legacy did not stop here but it also led us in messing up the following phase of the pandemic as well, in terms of the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine. The belligerent legacy seemed to push Australia at least half a year back, owing to our puzzled decisions on signing the deal for the procurement of vaccines. Australia signed up with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, but the efficacy of the vaccine turned out to be below expectations. Then the Australian government started looking around and signed a contract with Pfizer for its vaccine. Pfizer has proven to be up to the mark in efficacy but at an extremely high cost. And, being a new technology, mRNA, made it harder for many to absorb the message of the vaccine being safe. Could we have diversified our options? Yes. And despite our relationship with Russia and China, this should have not stopped us in expanding our vaccination choices with inclusion of Russian Sputnik V and/or Chinese Sinovac/ Sinopharm vaccines, as the efficacy of these vaccines are up to standards. Sputnik V has been shown to be 92 percent effective and Sinovac/Sinopharm above 80 percent effective. These vaccines were also less cumbersome in their logistics. Our European partners were open to taking these options, but we were completely blindfolded by the loyalty of Trump administration's divisive policy that we even could not contemplate these options. No doubt that in Australia no one would question the principle of the open market in this situation or the national interest. Trump's legacy has completely subdued our foreign policy, and the media has made us oblivious; otherwise we would be raising the question on Pfizer's prices as Europe is examining that aspect quite explicitly. Also, we could have prevented many disastrous lockdowns. Many more lives could be saved, and we would have been ahead of the world in inoculating our people and opening fully. All that could have been possible had we purged Australian foreign policy from Trump's legacy of straining our relationship with other world powers and ushering in an independent foreign policy which suits our national interest for future challenges as well. The author is a former staff member of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website. If you have a specific expertise and would like to contribute to China Daily, please contact us at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.