China sends medical equipment abroad, Cuba sends doctors and cutting-edge drugs, but the U.S. fails to provide its people, doctors and nurses with basic tools and protection.
U.S. imperialism has loathed China and Cuba ever since the mid-20th century when both nations pursued a revolutionary path and replaced the yoke of imperialism with their own forms of socialism. Americans are constantly bombarded with anti-communist and racist talking points which depict China and Cuba as “authoritarian” states that kill, torture, and repress the so-called democratic aspirations of their own people. The corporate media portrays the people of Cuba and China as backward stereotypes worthy only of the imperial targets placed on their backs. Most people residing in the U.S. are either unaware of their government’s imperialist war crimes or find themselves too distracted to fight the U.S. sanctions against Cuba or the dangerous military provocations that successive U.S. presidential administrations have waged against China. The COVID-19 pandemic currently wreaking havoc on the U.S. and the West challenges the very legitimacy of the imperialist narrative against China and Cuba for the sheer fact that these maligned nations have been able to organize a heroic campaign of global solidarity to control the spread of the disease.
China was the first country to report an outbreak of COVID-19 in late December and the city of Wuhan has been under near total lockdown since January 23rd. After two months of aggressive measures to contain the virus, Wuhan and the rest of China are now reporting zero new domestic cases for consecutive days. This has allowed China to send its expertise and resources all over the world to fight the spread of the virus. Billionaire and Chinese Communist Party member Jack Ma has sent millions of masks, testing kits, and other medical supplies to every country in Africa as well several Asian nations such as Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. He has also sent a comparable number of medical supplies, including one million masks, to the United States’ Center for Disease Control. However, Chinese aid hasn’t been limited to Jack Ma’s philanthropy. China’s central government has sent medical and technical assistance to Italy, Iran, Greece, and Venezuela.
Chinese solidarity abroad comes just two months after COVID-19 was infecting several thousand people per day with a mortality rate of around two to three percent. Once the outbreak was contained, China immediately shifted its focus to the world stage. Contrast this with the United States, which failed to make any preparations for COVID-19 despite the month and a half that China provided the rest of the world to ready itself for the virus’ spread. China is sending protective medical equipment abroad while massive shortages of the same equipment exists in the United States. New York City alone is short nearly 90,000 hospital beds and tens of thousands of ventilators needed to keep up with the demand of the pandemic. COVID-19 demonstrates that the U.S. is an Empire in decline and as such is incapable of meeting the most basic of needs that ordinary people possess in this crisis, let alone in the rest of the world.
China has approached the COVID-19 pandemic like it approaches foreign policy generally: with a win-win orientation. China has not only provided guidance and direct support to nations all over the world experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic but has also gained much from its cooperation with others, especially Cuba. Cuba produces over twenty medications that are effective in preventing and spreading viruses such as COVID-19. Through a long-standing joint venture between Cuba and China in the biotech industry, Chinese medical personnel have been able to use the Cuban-made Recombinant Human Interferon Alpha 2B to prevent contraction of COVID-19 and to assist patients in their early stages from developing severe symptoms. Such coordination has likely saved thousands of lives in China alone and is a shining example of what global solidarity can achieve in periods of crisis.
Cuba is no stranger to the concept of medical internationalism. Nearly thirty thousand Cuban doctors are deployed all over the world to provide healthcare free of cost to the most oppressed nations across the planet. Cuba also trains a staggering number of doctors from abroad free of cost at its Latin American School of Medicine. Cuba offered medical and humanitarian assistance to the United States during Hurricane Katrina despite being crippled by a U.S.-imposed embargo that only worsened over the course of successive U.S. administrations. Now Cuba is at the forefront of assisting the nations most imperiled by COVID-19. Cuba has sent fifty-two doctors to Italy. Similar contingents have also been sent to Suriname, Grenada, Jamaica and thirty three other nations.
U.S. imperialism is the structural antithesis of social solidarity. While Cuba and China are demonized as pariah states, the U.S.’ actual pariah state continues its policy of endless war amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Venezuela, Iran, and over thirty other nations find themselves at risk of massive economic and social catastrophe from the pandemic as a result of the U.S.’ commitment to isolating their economies. Many countries around the world were already living through an imperial nightmare prior to the emergence of COVID-19. Over 70 percent of people in Yemen lack access to clean water, food, and adequate healthcare as a result of the ongoing U.S.-Saudi war on the country. Palestinians in Gaza find themselves in a very similar situation to the people of Yemen as they continue to suffer from the impact of Israel’s colonial siege.
The COVID-19 pandemic only intensifies the need for a radical mass movement in the U.S. that places international solidarity at the forefront of its demands. This movement must publicly condemn the U.S. warfare state and ask how is it that the entire capitalist economy can grind to a halt while trillions continue to be pumped into waging war abroad. While the Trump administration and its Democratic Party scheme over what kind of half-measures they will enact to subdue the frustrations bubbling within the masses, over half of the U.S. population has been pauperized to a degree never seen in the history of the U.S. Empire. The contradictions of U.S. imperialism threaten economic collapse, but the fact that majorities in Black America and other oppressed nations have already been living through an economic and social catastrophe prior to the pandemic must be acknowledged as well. Any and every malady of imperialism that affects the working class impacts Black America twice over. The fallout from COVID-19 has been no different, as Black Americans are likely being denied access to what limited testing exists in the United States.
The racist and anti-human character of the U.S. makes painstakingly clear that the question of power over the state, the apparatus which directs and manages class society, must be at the top of anyone’s mind who seeks to transform this system. Mutual aid efforts, while important, cannot address the enormous economic problems that struggling people are facing and cannot stem the tide of war imposed upon so many of the most oppressed sections of U.S. society, let alone the rest of the world. That both political parties took so long to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and have yet to address the extreme destitution of the workers indicates that power in the U.S. rests fully with the corporate oligarchs and their appointed political managers that administer the state. Private profit and its maximization are not merely prioritized; they are the basis for all social organization and policy of the imperialist world order. Such a social system cannot meet the demands of a global crisis when those demands overwhelmingly involve the deliverance of basic human needs.
Cuba and China’s socialist planned economies were not wished into existence. They began with the overthrow of the old order of colonial and imperial terror and the subsequent redistribution of wealth to the workers and oppressed. Cuba’s internationalist missions abroad could only be possible if the basic human rights of healthcare, education, housing, and decent employment were available to all. Like Cuba, China has more than doubled its life expectancy since 1949 and has nearly eradicated absolute poverty. All the while China has developed the second largest economy in the world that currently leads all others in the way of clean energy production and public investments like high-speed rail. China’s high-tech planned economy has served as the basis for its immensely effective COVID-19 response.
None of these achievements would be possible were it not for a revolution that placed the ready-made state machinery into the hands of oppressed people. Cuba and China’s socialist systems have given them the means to act as shining examples of global solidarity. It is past time for the left in the United States to take a hard look and apply whatever lessons can be derived from the Cuban and Chinese experience that may be useful to our own concrete conditions. We have a duty to ensure that the crisis created by COVID-19 doesn’t leave the struggling masses in the U.S. in an even weaker political position. We also have a duty to stand in solidarity with China and Cuba as they face the U.S. imperialist beast and at the same time provide critical assistance to nations seeking to address COVID-19 in a manner consistent with the needs of humanity.