The Trump administration has announced a plan to stop Chinese airlines from flying to or from the U.S. beginning in June 16. This comes after the Chinese government has prevented United and Delta Air Lines from restarting their own services to China.
The Chinese are currently limiting airlines to service levels based on frequency in late March, when U.S. carriers had already suspended Chinese operations. The Chinese government has offered one flight per week.
Of course aviation is just a pawn in a broader tiff between the two global powers. The U.S. accurately claims China wasn’t fully forthcoming as the SARS-CoV-2 virus began to spread internationally, though greater candor earlier (perhaps 10 days) wouldn’t have altered the course of the virus for a country unprepared to deal with it – that limited access to testing, limited health care providers to using only faulty tests, and which ignored offers by American manufacturers to scale up production of respirator masks.
China has used the cover of the crisis to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. The U.S. has placed restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
I’m tempted to say that the Trump administration is Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles holding a gun to his own head, thinking the Chinese are the townspeople of Rock Ridge.
Little played Sheriff Bart in the 1974 Mel Brooks classic. The townspeople were going after the newly-appointed sheriff, but backed off when they thought he was going to shoot himself.
By banning Chinese airlines from flying to or from the U.S., because China is banning U.S. airlines from flying to or from the U.S., we’re doing nothing but holding a gun to our own head. By the way the virus is under control in China, we need to re-start global commerce, and we need greater access to the supply chain out of Asia. (Not that the flying experience to China right now is anything I’d want to be a part of.)
However Little’s Sheriff Bart was the shrewdest character in the film, and he was just manipulating the townspeople. He was never going to pull the trigger. Unfortunately I don’t think the Trump administration is faking, or if they are they may be locking themselves into a tit-for-tat they can’t back down from, which winds up wounding the U.S. regardless of how much it also wounds the Chinese. This isn’t zero sum, each side’s moves leave both sides worse off.
Maybe this, then, is the more apropos Blazing Saddles meme?