Using pandemic summit for global leadership will fail
Published: Sep 15, 2021 08:27 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US President Joe Biden is set to convene a virtual global COVID-19 summit next week, according to US media reports. He plans to call on global leaders to make new commitments to fight the ravaging pandemic. 

It has been more than one year since the pandemic hit the world, while people in the US are still wrestling with the mask and vaccination mandates, the most basic anti-virus requirement. In addition to its own anti-pandemic fallout, the US has contributed little to the other countries in terms of pandemic relief and vaccine provisions. 

How does the US, which ranks first in terms of the numbers of infections and deaths, have the poise to hold such a pandemic-themed summit? What commitments are the US willing to make to the world?

Among the international community, the US has the least will to cooperate in fighting the pandemic. Robin Niblett, director and chief executive of the London-based think tank Chatham House, was once quoted by the Washington Post as saying the US is seen as "being involved in its own internal reckoning — like the rest of the world doesn't really exist." With eyes fixated on self-interest, the US has deliberately overlooked cooperation opportunities with other countries to plan a global road map to defeat the ravaging virus.

With US global contributions absent, why does the US come up with the idea of convening a global summit? Zhang Tengjun, deputy director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, offered his insight.

"The US wants to shake off the title as one of the worst performing countries in the pandemic fight, change the international community's perception of it, and rebuild its leadership. It may not expect the summit to have any substantial effect, but wants to make it a platform to showcase its leadership," Zhang told the Global Times. 

With such a bossy attitude, the US still places itself in a high moral ground despite its failure in fighting the pandemic. It also shows the US' double standards - it does not cooperate, but wants others to cooperate with its agenda; it is strict with others, but is lenient toward itself. 

Zhang added that another reason is that the US wants to turn the pandemic fight into the direction that it is keen on - major power competition. 

"To put it more precisely, the US can make use of the summit to impose some agendas, such as its long-desired origins tracing. It may hype the issue again by pressuring China and the World Health Organization to coordinate its demand for another international probe into the virus origins. The ultimate aim is to gain an advantage in the next phase of competition with China," noted Zhang. 

Zhang warned that the summit may end up as a show of the US and it is worth noting what countries are on the US invitation list. 

"The US is likely to continue linking the pandemic fight with the differences in political systems and ideologies, turning the summit into an occasion to unite its allies and partners and pave the way for the establishment of a so-called global democratic alliance," said Zhang, adding that this is one step of its global strategy. 

What the US is doing to the world is aristocratic populism. It wants to manipulate global governance with its own politics, while it puts the interests of the rest of world in jeopardy. When the US becomes the source of problems, it poses a more serious challenge to the international community. In the wake of the sweeping pandemic, the countries that decide to take part in the pandemic summit should urge the US to face up to its own anti-pandemic failure and treat the pandemic in a scientific manner, instead of a political one.