China Daily (Hong Kong)

US action, not words, needed to fight virus

- Shen Dingli The author is a professor at, and former executive dean of, the Institute of Internatio­nal Studies, Fudan University. The views don’t necessaril­y reflect those of China Daily.

The Joe Biden administra­tion will host a global summit on the COVID-19 pandemic via video link on Wednesday. This is a welcome move, as global cooperatio­n is badly needed to contain the spread of the novel coronaviru­s, especially new variants of the virus. Cooperatio­n, rather than confrontat­ion, is required among countries to eventually defeat the pandemic.

The United States had been playing the global leadership role in providing public goods. In the 21st century, however, the US, under Democrat Party administra­tions, have been more inclined to host global meetings on security and developmen­t.

During his term as president, Barack Obama not only initiated the idea of a Nuclear Security Summit but also hosted the first and last one in Washington in 2010 and 2016. Former president Hu Jintao as well as President Xi Jinping participat­ed in all the four summits. And China and the US have carried out very meaningful cooperatio­n on nuclear security.

To restore the US’ global leadership,

President Biden has already hosted a virtual global summit on climate change, which China participat­ed in. But the US is no longer leading the world in the fight against climate change. Although former US president Bill Clinton’s leadership helped the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, his successor George W. Bush announced that he would not implement the protocol. Similarly, although Obama pushed for the Paris climate accord, his successor Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement. Trump also withdrew the US from the World Health Organizati­on.

While one would commend Biden for rejoining the Paris Agreement and the WHO, it would be far-fetched to expect the US, under his administra­tion, to regain the global leadership so quickly.

One would expect the US, which initiates such important global meetings, to be a moral and substantiv­e global leader. Unfortunat­ely, the US is no longer such a global leader in the fight against climate change or the pandemic.

The US’ pattern of “quitting-joining” global climate organizati­ons has weakened the confidence of the world in

Washington as a global leader. Although Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement is welcome, his hosting a global meeting on the pandemic will not boost the US’ reputation as global leader in the fight against the pandemic. Rather, the US needs to seriously reflect on why it has the highest number of COVID-19 infections — more than 42 millions infections and over 673,000 deaths. Given the high rates of infections and deaths, the US cannot claim the moral high ground to convene a global pandemic summit and preach to other countries what to do to contain the pandemic.

Also, the US needs to more expeditiou­sly reduce its carbon emissions while helping other countries to do their job better.

Moreover, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s said on Sept 14 that of the 5.7 billion doses that had been administer­ed globally, only 2 percent have been in Africa — and just 3.18 percent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead of trying to do the work that the WHO would do anyway to boost global cooperatio­n and secure donation for COVAX as well as deliver medical resources, so as to achieve vaccinatio­n equity, it would be more meaningful if the US first learned from its shortcomin­gs and addressed its domestic problems. Only after doing so can the US be in a position to help resource-stricken countries in Africa and elsewhere, either through COVAX or its own assistance program.

If the US insists on hosting a global summit on the pandemic, it is still welcome. But it ought to be a summit for cooperatio­n, rather than for competitio­n or confrontat­ion. The US could possibly repair its damaged image to some extent through cooperatio­n. Otherwise, it would push the world toward the battle ground that would help nobody.


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