This week the European Union was set to release a report on the coronavirus pandemic. An early draft of the report cited several key actions by communist China, including its slow initial cover-up and response, and its ongoing disinformation campaign to create confusion over its role and try blaming others including the United States.
The NYT reports that once China found out about the report, it made a few calls to see if Europe would delay and airbrush on Beijing’s behalf or not. This was a test of the EU’s resolve, as one European official noted. Would Europe stick to the facts, or would it wilt in the face of harsh words from foreign dictatorship?
What does history suggest will happen?
Worried about the repercussions, European officials first delayed and then rewrote the document in ways that diluted the focus on China, a vital trading partner — taking a very different approach than the confrontational stance adopted by the Trump administration.
The initial European Union report, obtained by The New York Times, was not particularly strident: a routine roundup of publicly available information and news reports.
It cited Beijing’s efforts to curtail mentions of the virus’s origins in China, in part by blaming the United States for spreading the disease internationally. It noted that Beijing had criticized France as slow to respond to the pandemic and had pushed false accusations that French politicians used racist slurs against the head of the World Health Organization. The report also highlighted Russian efforts to promote false health information and sow distrust in Western institutions.
This is Europe we’re talking about.
“The Chinese are already threatening with reactions if the report comes out,” Lutz Güllner, a European Union diplomat, wrote to colleagues on Tuesday in an email seen by The Times.
The sentence about China’s “global disinformation” campaign was removed, as was any mention of the dispute between China and France. Other language was toned down.
And other facts got dropped into footnotes and appendices. So now we get a watered-down report, and confirmation that Europe is incapable of standing up to China’s mildest pushback. While disturbing, it’s better to know this now than later.
The Times reports Ester Osorio, who is a senior aide to the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, is the person who ordered the report delayed and altered. According to the report, Osorio also tried to cover her own tracks. Some Euro officials are unhappy with the move.
“Such appeasement will set a terrible precedent and encourage similar coercion in the future,” an analyst, Monika Richter, wrote to her colleagues and supervisors in an email seen by The Times. She said that European Union diplomats were “self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party.” She also wrote that it was a lie to claim that the document had not been scheduled for release.
But not surprising.
This all suggests the European Union is about as useful to defending freedom as the National Basketball Association.
It also suggests that the U.S. and Australia may have fewer allies than we should have when it comes to holding China accountable for the pandemic.
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