The global coronavirus pandemic, which has struck 213 countries and territories and made the United States the hardest hit with 107,000 American deaths and nearly 2 million confirmed “cases,” as of this date (June 2, 2020), has failed to persuade President Donald Trump to wear a protective mask, as required by the health authorities. But the public anger that swept America over the May 25 police killing in Minneapolis, Minnesota of a 46-year-old black American rendered jobless by the pandemic, sent him inside a reinforced bunker under the White House, strong enough to withstand the crash of a 747 passenger aircraft.

Are we seeing the beginning of a new civil strife? This, even more than the determined efforts to contain the spread of Covd-19, bears watching in the days ahead.

George Floyd died under police custody, after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20-bill while buying a pack of cigarettes. Derek Chauvin, a White policeman, knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds after he was pinned to the ground; he died of asphyxia, which cut the flow of blood from his neck and back to his brain. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder, but the charges do not go far enough, the protesters complained.

This fuses together the issues of police brutality and racism and threatens to rekindle the violent protests that followed the bombing of the Baptist church on 16th street, Birmingham, Alabama which killed four little girls, and the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968. From total obscurity, Floyd could become the new Martin Luther King.

It comes at the worst possible time for the United States, which has suffered the most from the global pandemic that has already infected 6.4 million individuals and killed 377, 964 worldwide. Although the rioting and violent protests have not totally co-opted the peaceful protesters, the epicenter of the protests may have already shifted to Washington, D.C. to confront Trump, who has ordered the National Guard to “dominate” the streets to stop the marches, and promised to call in the military, if needed.

Trump will understandably do everything to get reelected this November, but whether his use of the National Guard and the military, if necessary, will quell or ignite violence remains to be seen. The very nature of American democracy is now being tested. Some concerned elements in the US press, like the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on The New York Times, have already expressed concern that Trump might be “inciting a civil war” by ordering a military crackdown on the protesters.

The current state of the US economy will most certainly play a key role here. The three month-long coronavirus global lockdown has produced a worldwide recession, which has caused a “tsunami” of bankruptcies, business failures and defaults everywhere but especially in the US. According to reports, Hertz, the biggest car rental company, and Comcar, the biggest trucking company, have declared bankruptcies; J.C. Penny, the oldest retail company, has been acquired by Amazon for almost nothing; Mall of America, the biggest in the US, has stopped its mortgage payments; Warren Buffet, the world’s biggest investor, lost $50 billion in the last two months; Blackrock, the biggest investment company, managing $7 trillion in global funds, has sent out distress signals; US Treasury is printing trillions of dollars to keep US economy afloat, while 40 million Americans are out of jobs, amid massive mortgage loan defaults, credit card defaults and auto loan defaults, and 12,000 to 15,000 retail stores are expected to close down.

This grim economic outlook is not helped by Trump opening a “second front” against China and the World Health Organization while he confronts a raging black protest movement and a yet virulent pandemic. Yet in his May 29 Rose Garden speech, he accused China of misleading the world on the spread of the corona virus, and renounced US membership in the W.H.O. for being allegedly “China-centric.”

China is far from blameless on any number of issues, but it is a mistake to accuse her of any wrongdoing that is not based on fact. The most serious charge is that China “instigated” the pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, Hubei province, a city not known to the outside world before the coronavirus outbreak on Dec. 31, 2019. This is not supported by fact. As reported by The New York Times, the W.H.O. issued the first alarm on January 4, five days after Wuhan authorities announced a cluster of 27 cases of an unusual pneumonia at a local seafood market.

W.H.O. followed up with a detailed report the next day. On Jan. 20-21, a W.H.O. field team visited Wuhan and reported there could be human-to-human transmission of the new virus. In a Jan. 20 TV interview, China’s leading epidemiologist confirmed transmissions to doctors in Wuhan, but later complained that local officials had tried to mislead him. Within three days, Beijing shut out all travel out of Wuhan.

In contrast, Trump did not restrict travel from China until Jan. 31.

Trump now claims that Beijing restricted travel from Wuhan to other Chinese cities, but not to other parts of the world. A similar statement has been attributed earlier to Scottish-American historian Niall Ferguson. This is not borne by the facts. A study by ABC News reported that from Dec. 2019 to March 2020, there were 3,200 flights from China to US major cities, but only 50 from Wuhan.

The more critical data, however, shows that Covid-19 has claimed 107,000 Americans lives to date, as against 4,600 Chinese, with an infection rate of 20,000 daily in the US, and zero to five daily in China. This seems to speak volumes of how the two countries have responded to the virus.

Trump’s decision to defund the W.H.O. is deeply regretted even by his supporters. In 2019, the US contributed $553 million to the W.H.O.’s $6-billion budget, as against China’s $40 million. But the US pullout could make the W.H.O. truly “China-centric,” as Trump had said in April, instead of being “US-centric,” as its Ethiopian director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sees the organization. Without Trump’s “pro-life” presence, the W.H.O. could easily fall prey to the pro-abortion biases of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other big donors.

This certainly deserves a serious rethink.