The blatant pro-China bias shown by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its response to the coronavirus pandemic has raised a number of serious questions about its handling of the crisis. Pictured: WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pays a visit to Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on January 28, 2020. (Photo by Naohiko Hatta/AFP via Getty Images)
As the body responsible for maintaining global health standards, the UN-sponsored World Health Organization (WHO) is supposed to adopt an even-handed approach when dealing with all member states, irrespective of how powerful they might be.
It is for this reason that the blatant pro-China bias the organisation has shown in its response to the coronavirus pandemic has raised a number of serious questions about the WHO’s handling of the crisis.
Under the terms of the WHO’s constitution, which sets out the agency’s governing structure and principles, the Geneva-based organisation is charged with ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
The accusation made by the Trump Administration, that the global body has become “China centric” and has been “biased” in its dealings with Beijing over the pandemic, therefore suggest the organisation has failed in its duty to treat all member states equally.
This has prompted US President Donald J. Trump to threaten to cut WHO funding, a move that could prove disastrous for the organisation, as the U.S. is its main financial backer.
President Trump’s low opinion of the WHO was reflected in a hard-hitting Twitter post this week, in which he wrote:
“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
Mr Trump then repeated the accusations at a White House news briefing on Tuesday. “They called it wrong. They really — they missed the call,” the president said. “And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see.”
The deepening row between Washington and the WHO comes at a time when the U.S. is having to deal with a worsening death toll while the Chinese are celebrating as citizens in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus is said to have originated, begin to return to normal life after experiencing a total lockdown imposed by China’s authoritarian regime that has lasted for more than two months.
By contrast, the U.S. is being particularly badly hit by the pandemic, with New York State on Tuesday reporting its highest single day increase with 731 fatalities.
The Trump Administration is increasingly of the view that the US would not be suffering so badly had the WHO been more rigorous in its dealings with Beijing when the outbreak was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019.
Much of the blame, moreover, for the WHO’s dire performance during the outbreak is being blamed on Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general. A former Ethiopian health minister, he first came to prominence in his home country when he served on the politburo of the Marxist-Leninist Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Dr Tedros was previously a great admirer of former Rhodesian dictator Robert Mugabe, even appointing him as a goodwill ambassador for the WHO, a decision he was forced to revoke following an international outcry.
Like Mr Mugabe, Dr Tedros has enjoyed a good relationship with China’s ruling communist party, and he won election to his current position after receiving backing from China in the May 2017 election.
His long-standing relationship with Beijing might help to explain why the WHO has been so accommodating to China even though the coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan. Rather than criticising Beijing for its initial attempts to cover up the outbreak, Dr Tedros instead praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his “very rare leadership”, and China for showing “transparency” in its response to the virus.
Many nations, including the U.S. and Britain, believe that Dr Tedros’s reluctance to confront China over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak is the reason it has now become a pandemic, with most Western countries being forced to introduce lockdown measures in a belated attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
Not surprisingly, Dr Tedros is facing widespread calls to resign, not least in the U.S., where American politicians say he placed too much trust in Beijing’s reporting about the extent of the spread of the disease.
Certainly, if investigations into the outbreak conclude the devastating global consequences could have been avoided if Dr Tedros had acted differently, then the WHO boss will have no choice but to tender his resignation.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph‘s Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.