The US may be reaching its “Chernobyl moment” as it fails to lead in combating the coronavirus epidemic. As with the nuclear accident in the Soviet Union in 1986, a cataclysm is exposing systemic failings that have already weakened US hegemony in the world. Whatever the outcome of the pandemic, nobody is today looking to Washington for a solution to the crisis. The fall in US influence was visible this week at virtual meetings of world leaders where the main US diplomatic effort was devoted to an abortive attempt to persuade the others to sign a statement referring to the “Wuhan virus”, as part of a campaign to blame China for the coronavirus epidemic. Demonising others as a diversion from one’s own shortcomings is a central feature of President Trump’s political tactics. Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton took up the same theme, saying that “China unleashed this plague on the world, and China has to be held accountable”.