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Quick Take: Trump pulls out of the WHO, moves toward Cold War with China

Trump promised a statement about China. Today's announcement was not about China. Most significant was about the World Health Organization, which is a distraction for Trump because it's weaker. They're reliant on the US, have no ability to hit back. But announcing they're pulling all funding and pulling out of the World Health Organization, the international governmental organization tasked with responding to pandemics, in the middle of a pandemic, is one of the stupidest foreign policy decisions that President Trump could make.



I'm not saying it's up there with spending trillions of dollars on the failed war in Iraq, but with over 110 vaccines, the World Health Organization, the EU, Bill Gates, working together to try to make them global - the world's largest economy is going to say, actually, I don't want to be a part of that. While China does want to be a part, they're going to spend more money and they're working to have more access and influence. That's a stupid thing.


The World Health Organization is hardly a perfect organization. They make mistakes. They are weak. They do the bidding of all of their member states. They do not criticize the Chinese government. They will not say that they should work proactively with Taiwan in ways that would offend China. They did certify China's data when they shouldn't have in the middle of January. Not because the W.H.O. had competing data. But they had no access, and if one of their funders says, "here's what we have," they pass it along. World Health Organization never criticizes the United States, either. That's a mistake. It would have been great to have a W.H.O. publicly saying, "your tests don't work. Use these tests. It's an embarrassment. People are going to die because you don't have enough test kits." They didn't say anything. I want a stronger World Health Organization, but our governments don't. Leaving is really inane and doesn't give Trump very much. Except he wanted something big to say, "I'm hitting the Chinese," and that was his big announcement.


What didn't he say? He didn't say he was going to pull the United States out of the special trade agreement with Hong Kong. He could have. He'd be within his rights. They're losing their special status. It's no longer going to have political autonomy enshrined by law. That was the agreement after 1997 and the handover. And instead, he said, "we're going to work on and we're going to look at all of their autonomy, with only few exceptions." In other words, the big American companies that make money out of working in Hong Kong aren't going to be punished. Instead, they'll sanction some Chinese officials, they'll go after some Hong Kong export authority. Unlike the W.H.O., I think that's the smart move for Trump. It would not make sense to unravel and unwind the Hong Kong autonomy, such as it is, even as the Chinese are taking that escalatory step, because we don't need yet another major hit to American companies and economic interests in the midst of a depression. As our economy is contracting six to eight percent this year.


That's another thing Trump didn't say. He didn't talk about the phase one trade deal. With the Chinese as our major enemy - they're the ones responsible for 100,000 dead in the US, Trump has a press conference only about China. He wasn't talking about Minneapolis. He wasn't taking questions about riots in the United States. He wasn't talking about the mayor who he has criticized there and the black guy that was killed by the police officer who's now been arrested and charged with third degree manslaughter, four days after this explosion of violence in Minneapolis. He didn't talk about that. You'd think he would have talked about the phase one trade deal, which is the signature accomplishment of Trump with the Chinese. That's because he doesn't want yet to unravel it.


Why not? Because it's going to cost the US markets and American taxpayers. This was a calculated escalation by Trump, moving towards Cold War, incredibly heated rhetoric, blame the Chinese, but let's not do anything that could really hurt me because unlike other countries I hit, even when I kill Soleimani, the head of the Iranian military, I know those guys can't do anything to me. If I go after the Chinese, they can, so I'm going to be more careful.

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  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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