United States and China should set up a Strategic Pandemic Command

749 words.

United States and China should set up a Strategic Pandemic Command
By, Sarwar A. Kashmeri

The continuing scourge of COVID-19 costs world economies $375 billion per month. As the seemingly unending flare-ups of new of COVID-19 variants, infections, and deaths, in rich and poor countries alike demonstrate, the pandemic will not end anytime soon. And it will not end anywhere unless it ends everywhere.

Only America and China, the two richest economies in the world, have the resources to tackle this serious threat to planet earth globally. For their own sake, and the sake of the world, they must come together and lead in a bold venture to take on this challenge.

In my recently released Foreign Policy Association report, “The Telegram: A China Agenda for President Biden,” I propose that the two countries jointly launch a Strategic Pandemic Command, with the mission of ending the COVID-19 pandemic and all its variants by providing the financial, manufacturing, and logistical resources to inoculate the entire world’s population. And to monitor the globe for evidence of new pandemics, then go into action to contain and destroy it before the virus can spread.

My idea is modeled after the U.S. Strategic Air Command set up by the United States during the Cold War with the Soviet Union to thwart a surprise missile attack by the Soviets. The Strategic Air Command kept a fleet of long-range B-52 bombers in the air at all times. This fleet had the nuclear capacity to destroy the Soviet Union even if all of America’s land based nuclear missiles were destroyed in a surprise attack. The SAC proved successful in deterring a Soviet attack on the United States and the world was spared a potential nuclear holocaust. The Strategic Pandemic Command would likewise increase the odds that the world is spared another pandemic such as COVID-19 that sneaked up on humanity last year and is still ravaging countries around the world.

Creation of the Strategic Pandemic Command will require sustained and close cooperation of Chinese and American scientists, project planners, doctors, infrastructure specialists, bankers, and politicians to succeed. It is a project that will also help rebuild trust and cool tempers between the two countries, even as it executes it’s mission to end the COVID-19 nightmare.

Fortuitously, there already exists an international framework to kickstart the Strategic Pandemic Command: COVAX—a global vaccine-sharing initiative enabled by funds from the Gates Foundation and jointly coordinated by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. It was launched in April 2020 as part of an effort by the World Health Organization and its partners to support global efforts to fight COVID-19. In addition to sourcing vaccines, COVAX also includes channels to provide diagnostics, treatment and health-system strengthening. More than 180 countries including China are already involved in COVAX.

Unfortunately, COVAX is running short of resources. As the New York Times pointed out in its August 2, 2021 article “COVAX was supposed to be a global powerhouse…that would ensure that poor countries received vaccines as quickly as the rich. Instead, it has struggled to acquire doses: it stands half a billion short of its goal…Now, poor countries are dangerously unprotected as the Delta variant of the virus runs rampant…the longer the virus circulates, the more dangerous it can become, even for the wealthy countries.” Strategic Pandemic Command would supercharge COVAX and remedy its short coming.

In a little over a year COVID-19 has emerged as the most serious, seemingly unending threat to the people and economies of every country in the world. Experts predict it could be the first of many such pandemics. The Strategic Pandemic Command could be a powerful tool to hasten the end of COVID-19, protect humanity against future pandemics, and strengthen the U.S.-China relationship, perhaps the most consequential foreign policy issue of our time.

To his credit, with his climate-change commitment, President Biden has already shown that he is willing to take bold, politically controversial initiatives with China to address global problems. He should now give serious thought to taking up the Strategic Pandemic Command idea with President Xi Jinping of China. The world will be forever grateful.


Sarwar Kashmeri a Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, New York, author of the recently published FPA report “The Telegram: A China Agenda for President Biden” and the author of “China’s Grand Strategy: A New Silk Road to Global Primacy.”