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.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

More Show less

Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:

This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.

Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?

And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.

More Show less

Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

More Show less

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

More Show less

Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal