The prospect of international cooperation to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic and save the global economy is not only no closer, but has been made even more remote by US President Donald Trump’s preoccupation with domestic political woes. Disquiet among voters over his mishandling of the crisis clouds his re-election prospects in November, adding impetus to increasingly desperate attempts to divert attention by blaming China for his country’s sorry plight. The latest example is his claim that he has seen “evidence” the virus came from a government laboratory in Wuhan, despite US intelligence agencies having concluded the virus was not man-made or genetically modified . There are reports officials are now pushing the agencies to hunt further for evidence. The war of words is reaching another level, with Trump also claiming China “will do anything it can” to make him lose his re-election bid , prompting Beijing to deny it has any interest in meddling . It is stirring a complex and volatile mix, with the scapegoating of China following criticism by the West of China’s own handling of the early stages of the pandemic and the battle with the US for global influence. Trump’s claim about the laboratory is worrying. The basis for it remains unclear. Nonetheless, he has cited it in threatening to impose more trade tariffs on China. This would set the scene for a China-bashing election campaign. Such a threat is unproductive and unhelpful. With the American death toll from the virus exceeding 60,000 and rising, Trump is under extreme pressure. If he wants to divert attention, China makes an ideal punching-bag given present perceptions of he country and its government in the US. He and his advisers may think that shifting the blame can help take some the heat off his back and rally his core supporters. But he is doing nothing for American’s long-term interests or its credibility. China braces for international backlash in a post-coronavirus world Reports of the White House pressing intelligence officials to link the virus to the Wuhan laboratory evoke memories of the bogus claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that were used to justify invasion in 2003. That was a conflict that remains a disaster for the US and the world. Repeating the same mistake with China for domestic political advantage cannot have a good outcome. The world has never had a greater need for China and the US to work together, not only to combat Covid-19 and make the world safer from such deadly contagion, but to rebuild a battered global economy. Both sides should leave the task of finding the origin of the disease to scientists and focus on things they can achieve together if they set aside differences for the common good. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.