Future historians might record that the Covid-19 pandemic marked the start of a new cold war between China and the US. Even before coronavirus emerged, tensions between Washington and Beijing were rising. China had challenged US power in the Pacific, by building a chain of military bases across the South China Sea. In the US, the Trump administration had initiated a trade war.

Now as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the world economy, with more than one-quarter of the world’s fatalities in the US, Donald Trump is increasingly turning on China. The US president has endorsed the idea that the coronavirus originated in the Institute of Virology in Wuhan. He has also speculated that it might have been deliberately manufactured — an idea his own intelligence agencies have explicitly repudiated. The White House is also reported to be interested in trying to nullify the legal doctrine of “sovereign immunity”, which protects China from being sued for damages in US courts.

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