Even the most optimistic of us are concerned not just for our own country following this dreadful pandemic but especially for America, the once leader of the free world. That was not a misprint. Here in London, we worry about your President and his inability to understand that by isolating your country, you let in by the front and back doors, China. The recent riots across mid state capitals caused when a white police officer unnecessarily killed a black man is not overlooked by the Chinese, themselves accused of overzealousness by America in Hong Kong.
Here’s how it plays. Your President blames China and makes up an excuse about how the coronavirus was deliberately let loose by Chinese communist party researchers in a Wuhan laboratory. History is a combination of facts and interpretation not interpretation with no facts. But that is not how it is with your Commander-in-Chief. He then compounds the original error by withdrawing from the World Health Organisation and stopping America’s funding of $850m over the next two years.
This is what we call here an ‘own-goal’.
Immediately, as President Trump ended America’s funding, Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader stepped in and offered to top it with an additional sum worth, in total, $2 billion. So the World Health Organisation, at best a second rate player, is saved. This was clever tactics by Xi. He had after all been instrumental in ensuring that the Director-General, Tedros Adhanom, a former health and foreign minister in Ethiopia, was appointed rather than a highly qualified physician.
Actually, your President’s indifference to the WHO since 2017, gave China that opening in the first place as the D-G had only been in the position on 1st July of the same year. He was not the best candidate but China smoothed his path because it gave them a permanent reason to be in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where the African Union, comprising fifty five states on the African continent, has its headquarters.
Xi had just joined the jots up. Slowly and carefully, the Chinese have changed their Foreign Policy. They have always played the long game. It’s how they work. They knew one day that Hong Kong would come back to them. They signed a fifty year deal in 1997 with Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister to share the governance of the island. Where are the British this morning whilst the Chinese prepare what can only be called an invasion of the former colony? Scared. Scared to even offer a rebuke. So scared we haven’t even sent in our navy; we know we would be overwhelmed. Our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – who was also for a moment our Foreign Minister – has failed to make a public comment. This is what we call here ‘strategic leadership’.
For Hong Kong, read Taiwan, for when America is at its lowest, China will strike. It may be next week if your city fires have continued but it is more likely to be in fifteen or twenty years time. Already China’s navy is immense. It has built a number of islands in the South China Sea from which it is probably going to add an Air Force base or two. If this development goes unheeded then how would America – which has agreed to be Taiwan’s major ally and defender – react? Well, with your President he might, on a bad day, press the button. It is likely therefore that the Chinese will wait for the results of your Presidential election in November before upping their game against Taiwan.
Then, extraordinarily, President Trump cancels the next G7 which he was supposed to be hosting. He wanted Russia back in the tent. Chancellor Merkel did not. Nor I suspect did any of the other five countries. Trump was spooked. He just cancelled it. ‘If not my way, no-one’s way’ is how he operates. This is not good for world peace in the middle of a pandemic where we would have expected America to take the lead. Turning your back on your friends in Europe will be the end of America’s position as leader of the free world as I may have already hinted. And it goes back to the way – and rightly – your President asked more European countries to cough up over the expense of running NATO. They accepted the argument but President Trump has not followed through.
Throwing your toys out of the pram every time you do not get your own way is not sensible diplomacy, it is more akin to dimplomacy. And what this may do is make 26 countries of the EU create their own EUTO which, from here, looks more appropriate even if the UK was not a member. We have our own problems. The future for both of us is uncomfortable if we carry on as we are.