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Capitalism on a Ventilator: A New Book Analyzes the Impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. and China

Capitalism on a Ventilator: A new book analyzes the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. and China

Originally published: Black Agenda Report (January 6, 2021)   | 

While China contained Covid-19 and preserved its economy, the U.S. spins lies while hundreds of thousands of its people die for lack of even a semblance of a national health system.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed China and the United States on the opposite ends of human progress. In the U.S., massive casualties of the pandemic have been coupled with the worst capitalist crash since the Great Depression. The story is much different in China. China began re-opening its economy as early as April of 2020. Deaths due to COVID-19 are virtually non-existent, and economists now predict that China’s economy will surpass the U.S. economy in GDP terms two years ahead of schedule. Capitalism on a Ventilator: The Impact of COVID-19 in China and the U.S.  is an anthology comprised of more than fifty contributions from authors, activists, and journalists seeking to break through the lies and deceit of the U.S.-led capitalist world that have exacerbated and prolonged the effects of the pandemic.

As part of a collaboration between the International Action Center (IAC) and the China-U.S. Solidarity Network, editors Sara Flounders and Lee Siu Hin have devised the only known resource that explains why the U.S. and China have taken such divergent paths in the global fight against COVID-19. In the introduction, Lee Siu Hin notes:

Just like a money-losing gambler in desperate need of making a comeback, the coronavirus was the perfect bet for turning the table. Sinisterly calling it ‘China’s Chernobyl,’ U.S. anti-communist warmonger imperialists painted a sick fantasy that mirrored the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. They made accusations that China covered up the problem. They hoped that China would have poor medical supports causing massive deaths – which would then lead to the country’s economic collapse causing condemnation and isolation from the international community. This in turn would lead to mass anger and uprising, and finally to the collapse and overthrow of Communist China.

Ironically, China successively mobilized the masses to beat the virus quickly and effectively while the U.S. under the Trump regime led the country into total disaster. The US not only became the hardest hit country with the highest rate of infected people and the highest casualties, but the country has spiraled into economic collapse, massive unemployment, and has even been unable to provide enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers. COVID-19 is indeed the “U.S.’s Chernobyl.

The U.S.’s own “Chernobyl” moment has many components. Readers of Capitalism on a Ventilator are taken back to the beginning of 2020 when the U.S. corporate media was demonizing China for its lockdown of Wuhan and accusing officials of covering up the severity of the crisis. Anti-China and anti-Asian racism spread at a fever pitch. Neither Donald Trump nor his most ardent followers ever stopped calling the COVID-19 virus racist labels such as “the China virus” or the “Kung Flu” from the moment the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan. As Max Blumenthal discusses in his contribution, New Cold War propaganda against China has cost countless lives in the United States. U.S. officials wasted precious months downplaying the significance of the pandemic and spreading racist lies about China. By the time the first epicenter of the virus, New York state, responded to COVID-19, the virus had spread virtually undetected.

Capitalism on a Ventilator takes readers through the entire timeline of the COVID-19 debacle up to the end of 2020. In “Warnings from China,” authors such as Carlos Martinez and Vijay Prashad lay out China’s multifaceted response to COVID-19 and dispel the myth that China withheld information. In fact, all evidence points to China communicating with the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) as early as December 31st and releasing the genome for the virus in early January. China worked closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) throughout its battle with the virus and bought the world ample time to respond accordingly. Socialist planning is a major theme of this section. While China was building specialized hospitals in Wuhan in a matter of weeks, the United States continues to be wracked by shortages in the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required to keep healthcare workers and the general population safe from COVID-19 more than one year since the virus was discovered.

Subsequent sections of the work broaden the scope of analysis to ensure readers understand the U.S. and China’s experiences with COVID-19 in proper context. These sections include a focus on the architecture of the U.S.’s blame game on China for the spread of COVID-19, the countless millions around the world harmed by U.S. imperial policy in the form of sanctions against Iran or military provocations toward China, and the conditions of racism and capitalism which have rendered Black Americans and oppressed people increasingly vulnerable to premature death from the disease. Authors such as Ajamu Baraka, Margaret Kimberley, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Margaret Flowers systematically analyze these critical aspects of a worldwide health crisis that continues in large part because the United States and its imperialist allies are designed to place the profits of private corporations over the needs of the people.

What one learns from Capitalism on a Ventilator is that the economic and human cost of the pandemic was far from inevitable. An entire section of the book is devoted to China’s solidarity with the rest of the world in the fight against COVID-19. After four months of difficult struggle, China successfully contained the pandemic and immediately diverted masks, testing kits, medical personnel, ventilators, and other forms of assistance to countries across Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. The United States received generous donations medical equipment from China during the first wave of the pandemic. China was also first country to declare that its COVID-19 vaccine would be a public good. As this is being written, China is working with Morocco to vaccinate 80 percent of the adult population of that country over the course of one month.

In other words, socialism prioritizes humanity while capitalism prioritizes profits above the very existence of humanity. The United States has 80 times more deaths than China from COVID-19 despite possessing less than a fourth of the population. Capitalism on a Ventilatoruses the written word to expose how COVID-19 became the U.S.’s “Chernobyl” moment and why China and other socialist countries were able to meet the challenge of the pandemic in the interests of the people. This has caught the ire of the Amazon corporation, which has prevented the sale of the book on its massive platform. Amazon sent the authors the following message:

Due to the rapidly changing nature of information around coronavirus, we are referring customers to official sources for advice about the prevention or treatment of the virus. Amazon reserves the right to determine what content we offer according to our content guidelines. Your book does not comply with our guidelines. As a result, we are not offering your book for sale.

Amazon has prevented the sale of the book.”

Yet COVID-19 conspiracies are abundantly available for purchase on Amazon’s platform. The U.S. utterly failed in ensuring that an “infodemic” did not occur in large part because a public health response to the pandemic was entirely absent in the United States. Furthermore, coronavirus conspiracies are spread by President Donald Trump each and every day. The blatant censorship of Capitalism on a Ventilator mimics the repression Left media faces across all online platforms. It also clarifies the importance of supporting this book and the immense efforts that its contributors made to bring clarity during one of the most chaotic and crisis-ridden moments in the history of the imperialist world.

COVID-19 has led to a historic drop in U.S. public opinion on China.  The neglect, cruelty, and incompetence of the U.S. governance system has been projected onto China in a bid by the ruling class to deflect from the shortcomings of capitalism and imperialism. China’s successful response to COVID-19 shows the world that there is another alternative to the U.S.-led capitalist order predicated upon the maximization of private profit. Humanity can indeed be placed at the center of politics. Capitalism on a Ventilator is an essential tool for raising the level of consciousness of the masses in the United States so that working people in the capitalist and imperialist world can join in the fight for true freedom; not the freedom to die and starve amid a pandemic, but the freedom to live in world governed in their material interests.

Monthly Review does not necessarily adhere to all of the views conveyed in articles republished at MR Online. Our goal is to share a variety of left perspectives that we think our readers will find interesting or useful. —Eds.

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