President Trump’s aversion to the World Health Organization has been obvious for some time, so it was no surprise when he announced that the US would stop funding it. His decision has prompted a predictable chorus of complaints and howls of despair from all the usual suspects, but for multiple reasons these must be ignored.
First, let’s consider the track record of the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a man who has behaved appallingly during the Covid-19 crisis. While a microbiologist and a malaria researcher, he has no known professional medical training—and yet he is in charge of the United Nations agency which is responsible for global public health. Even if the world had not been struck by coronavirus many would, on this evidence alone, question his fitness for this particular post. But his lack of appropriate credentials are not the half of it.
Formerly, Tedros served as a minister under Ethiopia’s prime minister and president, Meles Zenawi, whose repressive regime had close links to Beijing. Tedros was also on good terms with another China apologist, Zimbabwe’s tyrannical president Robert Mugabe, and in 2017 he even installed Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador (a decision that was reversed after protests from human rights groups). His political background therefore raises legitimate questions about his objectivity in the current pandemic. His actions in recent weeks have merely confirmed his strong admiration for China.
In January, he visited China and met with President Xi Jinping. On his return, he praised the Communist state for its “transparency”, despite it having covered up the true extent of Covid-19 by silencing doctors who wanted to alert the public to the outbreak. Chillingly, it has been reported that three journalist whistleblowers—named as Chen Qiushi, Fang Bing and Li Zehua—remain missing two months after trying to inform the world of the true scale of the outbreak in Wuhan. Although senior figures from the WHO, including Australia’s Professor John Mackenzie, have called China “reprehensible”, Tedros has continued to heap praise on Xi and on his country, saying it should be “congratulated” for protecting “the people of the world”. He even told colleagues he was “very impressed and encouraged by the president’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak.”
Time after time, Tedros has made statements urging other countries not to close their borders to Chinese visitors and has glorified China for setting “a new standard on outbreak control”. Yet it now seems to me that the WHO has, through such sheer imbecilic irresponsibility, actively helped to spread this disease around the world.
Trump is right—neither Tedros nor the WHO is fit for purpose. It’s just a shame that Trump didn’t go further by calling for the abolition of the WHO. It cannot convincingly claim to be politically neutral and its policy platform appears to be up for sale to the highest bidder. For a global health outfit, it has some terribly unhealthy habits.
Disturbingly, in the very week that Trump has challenged the WHO, the British government has decided to signal its virtue to the world by giving it a further £75m. Naturally, this has earned high praise from Tedros himself. As far as I am concerned it simply shows that the influence of China’s money and its relentless propaganda war have taken in not only the WHO, but also most Western governments.
At the same time, the Chinese technology firm Huawei has been having a busy week in Britain. Despite mounting opposition from politicians and campaigners, it is poised to help build the U.K.’s 5G data network. Having received criticism recently, its U.K. boss, Victor Zhang, wrote an open letter emphasising the key role Huawei already plays in the U.K.’s data network and – in a sickeningly condescending move – reassuring people that it is “focused on keeping Britain connected” during the “unprecedented” coronavirus pandemic.
Zhang said that data usage has increased by at least 50 percent since Covid-19 first reached the U.K., placing “significant pressure” on telecoms systems. He stated: “During this pandemic our engineers – designated ‘essential’ workers – are striving around the clock to keep Britain connected”. He then launched into a lecture whose central message was that excluding his company in our 5G network would do a “disservice” to U.K. consumers.
While I and many others feel angry at the sheer arrogance of Zhang’s statement (and fearful of the consequences of Huawei’s presence in the U.K.’s infrastructure) I am sure it was met with nods of approval in Downing Street. Also this week, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, successfully satisfied Beijing that Britain will not politicize the coronavirus crisis in a way that would have an adverse effect on China.
Huawei’s other big announcement of the week in the U.K. has been the unveiling of its newest board member, Sir Mike Rake, a former President of the Confederation of British Industry and such an enthusiast for the European Union that he once advocated Britain joining its single currency, the Euro. As I reflect on this, I am convinced that the same group of people who sold Britain out to Brussels now appear intent on allowing this country to be taken over by Beijing.
The only crumb of comfort I can find at present is that when Boris Johnson recovers from his own brush with coronavirus, and is back at work full-time, he will still have to face the 36 Conservative MPs who last month used a parliamentary vote to voice their belief that Huawei’s involvement in the U.K.’s 5G expansion should cease. Indeed, as this row brews over the summer, I suspect the number of rebels in Johnson’s own party will increase. With this in mind it is significant that the former Conservative Foreign Secretary, William Hague, this week expressed his concerns that the U.K. has become too dependent on China. It seems that for ventilators, face masks and many other products, we are almost entirely reliant on this Communist regime.
Donald Trump apart, the extent to which China has already infiltrated the West’s political systems and ruling classes means that real reversals of policy after this crisis are less than likely. However, there is still one group of people who can decide whether China attains the global dominance it clearly craves: consumers. In the final analysis, it is not governments that do business, but individuals making their own choices with their money.
With this in mind, I pledge today that as far as is humanly possible, I will not knowingly buy a product that is made in China from now on—certainly not while this barbaric regime is in place. If tens of millions of people have the same view, then we will win. If not, then China will rule the world, and no doubt our politicians will applaud from the sidelines.