Disunited Democracies Cannot Face the Challenge of China | Chatham House

June 5, 2020

After China violated Hong Kong’s legislative autonomy by imposing a new security law on the territory, the United States and its traditional allies did something remarkable — they agreed. But this display of solidarity was fleeting.

The US, UK, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand all issued critical statements. However, President Donald Trump then quickly announced the United States would protest China’s action by ending America’s special trade relationship with Hong Kong, whereas the EU rejected punitive economic measures.

Trump further vowed the US would ‘terminate’ its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the grounds that the agency has become a Chinese instrument. Although other democratic nations have expressed misgivings at the WHO’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, many had implored Trump not to hobble the world’s main health agency in the midst of a global emergency.

Although this disunity may be unsurprising, it is sadly self-defeating. Democratic states must settle on a long-term approach to China that combines a clarity of purpose, resolve, and restraint.

 

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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© Roland Paris 2020