President Biden appears to have made some modest progress at the G-7 leaders’ weekend meeting in his efforts to rally a united front against China’s violations of global standards. And we mean modest.
The final G-7 communiqué makes a fleeting reference to “the situation in the East and South China seas”, without specifying that the “situation” is the takeover and militarization of the atolls by China in violation of international law . Hong Kong and Xinjiang are also mentioned in the context of “human rights and fundamental freedoms” and “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.
On economy and trade, there is also this: “With regard to China and competition in the global economy, we will continue to consult on collective approaches to challenge non-market policies and practices that undermine the market. fair and transparent functioning of the world economy. “Continue to consult?
Mr. Biden has often criticized Donald Trump’s Chinese policies for not involving allies, and he was right. China practices a policy of division to rule internationally, and Chinese mercantilism is best fought by an alliance of democracies that can show Beijing that it cannot play against each other. The Trump administration has been successful in Huawei’s case, if not on other trade issues.
But the weakness of “multilateralism” is that it requires a unity of purpose that can be overcome by the participant at the lowest common denominator. European leaders are reluctant to endanger their exports to China with an overly forceful stance. That’s why they simply mumbled criticism of China’s decision to strangle the autonomy promised by Beijing to Hong Kong in its treaty with Britain. If the statement’s fine words mean anything, G-7 leaders will need to do much more than “continue to consult” to counter trade depredations, intellectual property theft and threats against its neighbors in China.
On the origin of Covid-19, for its part, the G-7 is already demonstrating the weakness of multilateralism supported only by vaporous and hopeful rhetoric. “We also call for a timely, transparent, expert-led and scientifically-based study by the WHO into the origins of COVID-19, including, as the experts report recommends, in China,” the statement said on Sunday. .
Is that right? World leaders want the same WHO that failed its first study into the origin of Covid-19 to do another, this time with. . . feeling?
The WHO’s Covid Origin Investigation Team this year included scientists with a clear conflict of interest as they had been involved in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology, hence the coronavirus might have fled. China has denied the WHO team access to key data and records from the early days of the virus. Why does anyone think a “phase 2” probe would have more access and do better under the auspices of a WHO that remains heavily compromised on China?
The WHO is a leading example of how multilateral institutions that include dictatorships are ultimately corrupted and act against American interests. The G-7’s “call” for a new study is just not serious, and it raises the question of whether leaders are following the motions and would rather drop the issue. We’ll know that’s what it is if the U.S. intelligence report Mr. Biden commissioned on the possible Wuhan lab leak looks like whitewash. China will not be moved by the G-7’s senseless calls for better behavior.
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Published in the print edition of June 14, 2021.