Morning Brief

Pompeo Checks In on Britain’s Anti-China Turn

The Secretary of State will meet today with the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, but an earlier meeting with China hawks has raised eyebrows.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo steps down from his plane upon arrival in London on July 20, 2020.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo steps down from his plane upon arrival in London on July 20, 2020. Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo begins his U.K. visit, the European Union agrees on a €1.82 trillion recovery and budget package, and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz is hospitalized.

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Pompeo Begins U.K. Visit With China Talks

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in London today for talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. According to a State Department fact sheet they will discuss “global priorities, including coordination on COVID-19 recovery and issues related to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”

It’s that final point that should grab the most attention, as quite rapidly the United Kingdom has edged away from its “new golden era” of relations with China to one of outright confrontation.

The past seven days provide a case in point: The U.K. has blocked the Chinese firm Huawei from any further involvement in the country’s 5G network, it suspended an extradition agreement with Hong Kong over the Beijing-imposed national security law, and accused Beijing of “gross and egregious” human rights abuses over its treatment of its Uighur population.

This will all be music to Pompeo’s ears, as anti-China actions have become a centerpiece of the U.S. government’s geopolitical (and at times plainly political) strategy. Pompeo’s first meeting will not be at 10 Downing Street, but with a group of Conservative Party members on the backbenches of parliament.

The hawks in the room. As The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh writes, the group has begun to wield outsize power. “It is hard to escape the conviction that China policy is being driven by the Conservative backbenchers—many looking for a grand cause after winning the Brexit argument—in alliance with an aggressive, trade-obsessed White House,” Sabbagh writes. After successfully extricating the U.K. from its relationship with Huawei, the group has allegedly set its sights on unwinding China from its nuclear power network.

Everything is Brexit. As with the run-up to Brexit, David Hutt writes in Foreign Policy, the U.K.’s China policy is reflective of a civil war in the Conservative Party, and as with Brexit “the Tories wanted to have their cake and eat it too,” Hutt writes. “The same desire for ‘cakeism’ is now on show with China. As expressed by some Tory politicians, there is a sense that Britain can take a much tougher line on Beijing and, at the same time, keep all the economic benefits of trade and investment with China while not jeopardizing free trade negotiations with other partners.”

What We’re Following Today

Europe united, for now. “Europe is united, Europe is present,” European Council President Charles Michel said at the end of a marathon five day summit where EU leaders appeared to have agreed on an economic recovery package alongside a seven-year budget deal. Although the agreement now means the EU can raise common debt for the first time, the so-called frugal countries, led by the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, appeared to have exacted the biggest compromises: reducing the proposed €500 billion in grants to €390 billion and decreasing their overall contributions to the EU budget.

Putin names new governor for restive region. Russian President Vladimir Putin has formally removed Sergei Furgal—the governor whose detention sparked mass protest in Russia’s far east Khabarovsk region—and named Mikhail Degtyaryov as his acting replacement. The choice of Degtyaryov could be seen as a way to pacify citizens after ten straight days of protest, as he is a member of the same political party as Furgal.

King Salman hospitalized. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has been admitted to hospital with gallbladder problems, state media reported on Monday. The 84-year-old monarch is the second aging Gulf leader to seek medical attention recently, after 91-year-old Kuwaiti ruler Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah underwent surgery on Sunday for an as yet unnamed ailment.

White House to resume coronavirus briefings. As cases surge in the United States, the White House has decided to resume daily coronavirus press briefings, on hiatus since April (when daily cases were roughly half as high as they are today). The resumption in public briefings is seen by White House officials as a way for U.S. President Donald Trump to portray an active response to the pandemic as flagging poll numbers threaten his reelection, according to reporting by CNN. The briefings could resume as soon as 5 p.m. today in Washington. 

Keep an Eye On

The race for a vaccine. A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drug firm AstraZeneca has shown promising results in a trial of 1,077 people. Research published in medical journal The Lancet said the vaccine candidate boosted antibody responses and increased the number of protective T-cells in the trial group. Final testing will include two doses of the vaccine, potentially complicating widespread access should it prove successful.

Cases in Africa increase. The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief Michael Ryan has warned of an “acceleration” of the spread coronavirus in Africa. South Africa—which suffered one of the earliest outbreak on the continent—has been especially affected by the virus and reported the world’s fourth highest number of new cases on Monday. “South Africa may, unfortunately, be a precursor, it may be a warning for what will happen in the rest of Africa,” Ryan said.

Odds and Ends

Denmark has offered dry land to the several thousand merchant sailors stranded on board Danish ships since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. In normal times, crews would rotate on different ships in order to make their way home. But because of coronavirus restrictions, crews have had to stay put for months at a time. In a scheme announced on Monday, Denmark—home to shipping giant Maersk—will provide temporary visas for sailors to transit through the country as well as providing hotel accommodation to isolate them upon arrival.

Bytedance, the parent company of the TikTok app, spent a company record $500,000 lobbying the U.S. government in the second quarter of 2020, according to public lobbying disclosures. TikTok is facing calls for an outright ban from U.S. lawmakers because of privacy concerns and alleged ties to the Chinese government. Any ban would have to reckon with its popularity: The app has already been downloaded 165 million times in the United States.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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