Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday pledged $2 billion to the World Health Organization to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and said he supported a “global review” of the international response to the outbreak, but only if it is led by the WHO and only after the virus has been contained.
Xi made the announcement at the organization’s general assembly. His comments via video link came after more than 100 health ministers from around the world said they supported an independent investigation of the WHO’s handling of the global crisis.
“We have shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation,” Xi said. “We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.”
The European Union’s 27-member bloc called for the independent evaluation to “review experiences gained and lessons learned” but China shot down the request, arguing Beijing had provided all relevant data to the WHO and other countries “in a most timely fashion.”
“The work should be based on science and professionalism led by the WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner,” Xi added. “We must strengthen global governance in public health.”
As of Monday, the killer contagion has infected more than 4.7 million people and claimed more than 315,000 lives worldwide.
China’s handling of the pandemic as well as its cozy relationship with the WHO has been criticized by President Trump as well as several bipartisan lawmakers.
Multiple intelligence reports have also claimed China misled the world by purposely underreporting its numbers of patients and deaths. In a classified report sent to the White House more than a month ago, intelligence officials said China’s public record of COVID-19 infections was deliberately deceptive and incomplete.
In April, Trump suspended funding to the WHO and called the medical arm of the United Nations “China-centric.” He claimed it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.” However, the administration is on the brink of restoring some of the funding, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” recently reported.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar II said Monday that the U.S. “supports an independent review of every aspect of WHO’s response to the pandemic.”
“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control: There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives,” he added.
And without naming names, he said, “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world. We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith.”
During Monday’s virtual meeting, Xi also offered support for WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, the WHO has made a major contribution in leading and advancing a global response to COVID-19. Its good work is applauded by the international community,” he said, before calling on countries to provide more assistance to the WHO.
“China calls on the international community to increase political and financial support for the WHO so as to mobilize resources worldwide to defeat the virus,” he said.
Xi also said his country would work with the United Nations to set up a global humanitarian response hub in China and would make Chinese-developed vaccines for everyone. In previous comments, Xi had stopped short of saying the vaccines China has been developing would be available for people outside its borders.
“COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good,” he said. “This will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.”
Xi said it would focus on helping Africa and would speed up the construction of disease control and prevention headquarters on the continent.
Xi also successfully swatted down a campaign by the United States to include Taiwan as part of the World Health Assembly – something China had vehemently opposed because it views the island as a province.
The push to include Taiwan dissolved after Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced Taiwan would withdraw its bid for observer status. He claimed he did so because the WHA’s proceedings had been shortened due to the virus and said it would restart its campaign to be included later in the year when meetings would be conducted normally.
“Understandably, countries want to use the limited time available to concentrate on ways of containing the pandemic,” Wu said in a statement. “After careful deliberation, we have accepted the suggestion from our allies and like-minded nations to wait until the resumed session before further promoting our bid.”