The World Health Organisation to the allegation that appeared in various media sources in Europe about a telephonic conversation between its Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Chinese President XI Jinping through a statement on Twitter on 10 May. The statement says that the allegations of the two talking over the phone are unfounded and untrue and, in fact, they did not speak on 21 January at all and have never spoken over the telephone ever.
The allegation had first appeared in a German magazine Der Spiegel where it was claimed that Xi had asked Tedros to suppress news about the Wuhan-origin novel coronavirus disease 2019 (nCOVID-19), which led to a worldwide pandemic. The magazine cited German intelligence agency BND as a source.
The magazine claims that the Chinese president and the WHO head had had a conversation on 21 January where Xi asked Tedros to suppress the information that COVID was an infectious disease that can transmit between human beings. As it is evident, COVID-19 has killed nearly 2,00,000 people around the world and most of them are from the US. The global crisis has slowed all economies and it will take several years for the global economy to get back on track.
The new revelations made US President Donald Trump’s stand against China stronger. Just a few days ago Trump had said that China would do anything it could to make him lose his re-election bid. However, it’s more an indictment of the WHO head than of the Chinese president. One may always argue that a head of a state ought to work in the interest of his nation rather than for international interests.
Dubious and Questionable Track Record
Tedros has had a questionable track record as the health minister of Ethiopia. He had earlier allegedly played down cholera casualty in his country. In 2017, Prof Larry Gostin had said about him that though he was a compassionate and highly competent public health official, he had a duty to speak the truth and honestly identify and report verified cholera outbreaks over an extended period. Now Tedros is accused of running a UN organisation upholding the interests of China!
Even though the US is the major contributor in terms of donations for WHO, over the years it has not paid the required attention to the functioning of the organisation. All this while China, with little contribution to the organisation, has been able to manipulate its functioning. At the same time, China got its own people placed at various levels, mostly as junior executives in the UN agency.
China being an emerging power aims to supersede the US and dominate the world order. However, since it cannot match it in hard power, it has devised a plan. Over the last three decades, China has tried to use international organisations to its benefit. The WHO is one of them. Even with a questionable track record, Tedros became the director-general with the help of China.
In an interview to BBC, Meg Davis, a global health specialist at Geneva’s Graduate Institute, echoes with the American President Donald Trump as he says the WHO’s position has been an awkward one so far. He puts blame on Dr Tedros as according to him China was the place where the world first saw the outbreak; however, his organization failed to report on censorship, repression of whistleblowers. Had those reports come from officials of the organization, the world may have prepared well.
Now it’s apparent Dr Tedros’ mollycoddled China and there is a reason behind such a behavior. A report from British newspaper The Daily Mail reports that in 2015 and 2016 China gave some $16million to Ethiopia in spending commitments and cash contributions, largely in support of food or refugee programs. Remember, this was also the time when Dr Tedros was the Health Minister of the country – is not it Quid Pro Quo?
His love for dictators and totalitarian regimes is not new for a reason. He was a member of Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a militant organization in Ethiopia. When he became Director General of WHO, he proposed Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president at the time, as a WHO goodwill ambassador. He had then appreciated Mugabe’s policies and work on universal health coverage and health promotion – this was done again on the direction of China as it wanted Mugabe to get re-elected.
Dr Tedros and China have mutual love for each other where the latter has been all praises to the authoritarian development model of Ethiopia, the earlier has helped in the biggest cover up of the Corona virus disease. Now that is evident, Dr Tedros visited Beijing in January itself, he was not aware of the censorships and suppression of the doctors, sounds dubious. Instead of taking the true stock of the things, Dr Tedros praised Chinese government’s transparency and the speed of its response. In fact, he credited China with saving lives both at home and overseas.