Deteriorating relations between the United States and China have potentially disastrous consequences for the world when global cooperation is needed to fight threats such as COVID-19 and global warming, renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky said Friday in an FCC webinar.
The attempts by the United States to prevent China from developing were cruel and pointless, he said.
“If China develops, we all benefit,” Chomsky said. “If we’re going back to a Cold War between China and the United States, that’s a disaster for the world. This is a moment, more than ever, where we have to have international cooperation. The crises that we face are all international.”
Relations between China and the United States have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump – whom he called “the most dangerous political leader in history” – took office, resulting in a trade war and retaliatory actions against journalists in both countries.
Chomsky, one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world, said China was “trying to reassert its traditional role as the dominant force in Asia”, and the United States “won’t tolerate it”. He then likened the situation to the Mafia.
“The fact is the world is being run very similar to the Mafia.. the Don doesn’t tolerate any interference from states that challenge it, or even states that get out of line,” Chomsky said.
Discussing a range of topics, the author of more than 100 books including Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, addressed the political unrest that gripped Hong Kong in 2019 and said the only way to ease the pressure on Hong Kong to “undermine its democratic procedures, practices and opportunities” was a “reduction of international tensions” between China and the United States.
“It’s always worth remembering the old saying that when the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. Hong Kong is the grass. If the elephants start fighting, Hong Kong is lost.”
“The Hong Kong protests were a major sign of optimism. They didn’t totally succeed but laid the seeds for future progress,” Chomsky added.
The webinar opened with Chomsky’s thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump Administration’s handling of it.
“The United States is basically a wreck,” he said, citing Trump’s dismantling of former President Barack Obama’s preparations against a global health emergency which he said left America “unprepared when the pandemic struck”.
Chomsky went on to warn of future coronavirus pandemics that, intensified by the impact of global warming and habitat destruction, would be even more lethal.
“It could be something like the Black Death,” he said.
Arizona, the state where Chomsky resides and where he is laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, was “now vying for the international record for the highest number of cases per capita”, he said. He accused Trump of “flailing around desperately to find some scapegoat to cover up for the fact that he’s responsible for killing over a hundred thousand Americans”.
Referring to misinformation around the pandemic, he took aim at media organisations such as Fox News for “peddling” misleading messages playing down the seriousness of COVID-19. But Chomsky also lamented the Trump Administration’s rhetoric towards the media as enemies of the people.
“With the media now it’s very scary. When half of Republicans think the government should have the right to close down media it doesn’t like, then that’s dangerous,” he said.
You can watch the entire talk here.