Happy Thursday, World readers. I hope those of you in the U.S. enjoy the long weekend ahead, even if your beach and BBQ options are limited.
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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened a press conference on Wednesday with a remarkable statement: "The media’s focus on the current pandemic risks missing the bigger picture of the challenge that’s presented by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Why it matters: In the midst of a global crisis with more than 300,000 dead and no end in sight, American foreign policy seems absorbed with China's actions at the start of the outbreak, rather than a global effort to contain and eventually end it.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who is often floated as a 2024 presidential prospect, gave voice to that view in a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
Hawley's primary target is the World Trade Organization, which admitted China in 2001 in what many hawks now consider the original sin of America's China policy. Hawley has introduced a joint resolution to pull the U.S. out.
That's not to say Hawley is merely shouting from the margins. Blowing up multilateral agreements and institutions to thwart China has become central to American foreign policy.
Josh Hawley. Photo: Carlos Barria-Pool/Getty Images
"We have to face the reality that the existing organizations have not kept up with the current challenges," says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The World: A Brief Introduction."
The big picture: The U.S. largely led the world into the current global system. Few countries appear prepared to follow America out of it.
The bottom line: The stage is set for a momentous debate: Is abandoning the existing global order the only way to halt America's decline, as Hawley argues — or would it only hasten it?
Protesters outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Nov. 2019. Photo: Vivek Prakash/AFP via Getty Images
It emerged today that China plans to implement a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong that could provoke a fierce backlash from pro-democracy activists there.
Why it matters: Beijing's encroachment on Hong Kong's independent legal system prompted massive protests last year that have resumed on a smaller scale as social-distancing measures lift.
By addressing this law in Beijing, China's leaders are bypassing Hong Kong's legislature and chief executive, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian notes.
What they're saying: "This move affirms that Hong Kong as we knew it is gone and rule of law is now rule by law, with the CCP determining what the laws are and how they will be enforced," writes Bill Bishop in his Sinocism newsletter.
What to watch: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said that if Hong Kong's political freedoms are not upheld, the U.S. will consider revoking the special status that allows the city to thrive as an international financial hub.
My colleague Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian obtained a secret extradition request from China for a Uighur man who fled Xinjiang for Turkey. Dive in
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios
1. The U.S. is moving to withdraw from Open Skies, a 1992 treaty that allows NATO countries and Russia to surveil one another from the air to prevent the risk of military conflict.
2. Meanwhile, the fate of New START, the last treaty constraining the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, is in the balance.
3. The Senate confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe as the director of national intelligence in a 49-44 party-line vote today.
4. Europe came one step closer to the long-held dream of fiscal union this week, as both France and Germany signed on to the idea of the EU itself — rather than member states — raising money on the bond market that could then be spent on crisis relief, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.
5. Burundi's election went ahead yesterday with few precautions around COVID-19 and social media sites blocked — perhaps to keep reports of irregularities from spreading widely.
Americans tend to think South Korea and Germany responded effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, while China and Italy failed to do so, according to new polling from Pew Research.
Breaking it down: The responses are sharply partisan.
There are dozens of candidate COVID-19 vaccines in development and at least eight are now in clinical evaluation — four from China, two from the U.S., one from the U.K. and one from an international collaboration, per the FT.
Why it matters: The gap between the first and last people to be vaccinated will almost certainly be months, and it could be years. The process will be dictated by some combination of geopolitics, manufacturing capacity, capitalism and — least assuredly — international cooperation.
So who goes first? Eurasia Group's GZERO Media has this helpful breakdown of the options:
These are difficult questions. Let's hope we have to answer them soon.
Xi Jinping (center) and the maskless men who lead China's Communist Party at the opening of party meetings today in Beijing. Photo: Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images
"I've seen the various stories, that someone was walking my dogs to sell arms to my dry cleaner. It's all just crazy."— Pompeo bristled at questions about the firing of the State Department's inspector general