As COVID-19 began to spread across China, killing thousands of people and catapulting pathogens on a lethal global trajectory, President Donald Trump expressed appreciation for China ’s response and President Xi Jinping. On January 24, Trump tweeted "China has been working hard to contain the coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency … In particular, I thank Xi on behalf of the Americans. Chairman! "
As of January 31, Trump announced some travel bans on China, but he still understates. It was announced that the risk of the virus was “very controlled” until February 24th. With COVID-19 spreading across the United States, it is clear that Trump's wishful thinking has put the country in a dangerous and vulnerable situation.
Only after the surge in the number of infections in the United States made public health crises insignificant could President Trump take action-looking for a scapegoat for his negligence. Of course, China is clearly the target. However, given Trump's repeated praise of Xi Jinping for handling the crisis, it is difficult for China to go downhill. Therefore, Trump needs another paralysis. He quickly found one: the World Health Organization. The President and his right-wing media choir began to argue that the World Health Organization ultimately blamed the failure to challenge Xi Jinping ’s improper handling of the virus and failed to help report the severity of the epidemic at a critical early stage.
This is the deflection of the grade caliber. It was Trump himself, echoing Xi Jinping ’s propaganda, and he was one of the most famous voices praising China ’s response to the virus from January to early February. The World Health Organization did convey the information received from China, and although this was too critical, they agreed to allow their team to enter China for independent evaluation during the negotiations. But by January 29, the World Health Organization had warned the world to take action to prepare for the spread of the virus.
At the same time, until February 7, when the United States has found a case, Trump is still claiming that Xi Jinping "handled well." On 12 different occasions in January and February, he repeatedly spoke Chinese. The choir leading the skeptics is Trump, not the World Health Organization, who underestimated the threat of COVID-19. The World Health Organization should have been more skeptical of China ’s early claims, but as an organization that relies on the support of its member states, it is difficult to contradict its two most powerful members.
However, to distract Trump's praise of China and his overconfidence, the president and his allies simply declared that the World Health Organization should be blamed instead of Trump or Xi Jinping. Then last week, he took a further campaign to discredit the World Health Organization and stopped funding from the United States in order to send a clearly political red letter to WHO.
The irreplaceability of the World Health Organization ]
Needless to say, the sudden withdrawal of capital from the world ’s largest public health organization in a global pandemic is extremely dangerous.
The World Health Organization is essential to stop disease outbreaks and strengthen public health. COVID-19 systems have begun to appear in developing countries. Yemen announced its first infection earlier this month, and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are also in serious danger. Millions of refugees rely on the World Health Organization for health care, and millions of children rely on WHO and UNICEF to obtain vaccines.
The World Health Organization is not perfect, but its team of doctors and public health experts has made significant achievements. Their most famous reputation is the elimination of smallpox – no small feat. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has worked to eliminate two of the three types of polio polio in the world, and they are close to completing triple polio.
These investments are not just the right thing; they benefit the United States. Improving health abroad provides greater political and economic stability and increases the demand for US exports. And, as we currently know, it is in the national security interests of the United States to effectively detect and respond to potential epidemics before they reach our coast.
Because the United States wants to develop a new global epidemic prevention system, there is absolutely no way to do this without the World Health Organization. Uniquely, it places traditional rivals (such as Russia and the United States, India and Pakistan, or Iran and Saudi Arabia) on the same big table to meet global health challenges. It has relationships with public health leaders in every country, has decades of experience in dealing with viruses and diseases, and can unite countries to deal with large projects. This ability to bridge the divide and work across borders cannot be torn and rebuilt-in today's major electricity competition environment-so, so without the WHO as the center, there is no way to establish an effective international anti-pandemic infrastructure.
Trump's team may know this, but because of China's growing influence within the World Health Organization, they see an opportunity to attack the World Health Organization. But frankly, China ’s influence in the World Health Organization is increasing, which Trump made. Like many international organizations, the World Health Organization (WHO) has observed that in the past three years, the United States has disappeared from the global competitive environment and brutally attacked multinational institutions. On the other hand, China is the opposite. Feeling the vacuum created by the Trump administration ’s global retreat, China has greatly expanded its diplomatic influence and participation in various parts of the world, focusing on international organizations such as the World Health Organization. Yes, the US contribution to the organization still far exceeds that of China. However, since 2014, China ’s contribution has increased by 50%, and the world knows which way the wind is going. Trump's second term may mean that US funds will be greatly reduced, or the United States will withdraw from the World Health Organization and other international organizations on a large scale.
Therefore, indeed, the World Health Organization may now respect China more and become a growing benefactor. Indeed, this respect may have led international institutions to understate the severity of the epidemic at an early stage, making Taiwan ’s response to the virus embarrassing, and waiting too long to officially declare COVID-19 a pandemic. The World Health Organization should not escape from these early mistakes. But if the leader of the free world, Donald Trump, does not do exactly the same thing, then the organization would have felt less forced to acquiesce in China. Frankly speaking, few people in the United States have noticed or cared about the World Health Organization's earlier statement about COVID-19, because Trump completely occupied the channels reserved for Chinese defenders and COVID-19 skeptics.
New World Health Organization we deserve to have, with its new American leadership position
After COVID-19, the behavior of the United States and other countries is likely to determine the way of development in the coming decades. I strongly hope to see the spread of this deadly virus as a reason for seclusion and self-reliance. This emotion is understandable and even has certain advantages. For example, the United States should not be so dependent on China and other countries to provide important medical supplies. However, it is wrong to put this idea too far. Countries in the world will doubt each other and fall into mercantilistism, militarism and xenophobia. This will be a poorer and more dangerous place.
The government should not regard COVID-19 as an isolationist argument, but should focus on how we can defeat it and an epidemic like it. The White House with sufficient motivation can promote the reform of the World Health Organization and make it a stronger and more influential institution. Trump is doing the opposite – walking away and effectively begging China to fill the gap left by the US departure. The President missed an important opportunity to sit at the conference table and use this moment of the international crisis as a means of real reform in the World Health Organization.
First, the United States should strengthen rather than destroy the world. The legality of WHO. The agency has global influence, including rare access in Yemen, Libya and Syria, but it is not omnipotent. We first need to clarify the agency ’s mission. Its creators did not foresee the response to new epidemics such as H1N1, Ebola or COVID-19. In fact, its Constitution does not mention the pandemic, but gives it the role of "the power to direct and coordinate international health work", including "epidemics, endemic and other diseases."
Most importantly, the agency Of recommendations are not considered binding, and the World Health Organization is unable to force or sanction its members. After the announcement of a public health emergency at COVID-19, many countries, including the United States, did not listen. China refused to provide the much-needed data to the World Health Organization in the critical weeks. The United States can take the lead in reforming the International Health Regulations through the World Health Organization and developing new international law enforcement tools to ensure that no country can escape the information of the deadly virus again. Although it will be a hard battle to give the World Health Organization the ability to formulate and implement binding resolutions, the stakes in doing nothing are obvious.
Second, Member States decided that resources were inadequate and bound the hands of the World Health Organization. We can undo. Its annual budget is about $ 2.4 billion, less than a third of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and less than 36 hours of US defense spending. No wonder the World Health Organization cannot do everything we expect. Without increased funding, the World Health Organization will not be able to respond to this outbreak or prepare for the next global health emergency. But it is also about flexibility. Currently, 75% of the organization ’s budget is designated by donors. This reduces the space for the prevention of innovative thinking and the prevention of the next crisis. The over-reliance on voluntary contributions has discouraged the World Health Organization from criticizing any donor country, including China. The United States should call on all countries to pay their dues in full and reduce these designated uses.
Third, the World Health Organization must improve coordination between its leadership and its regional offices. The head of the agency ’s regional office is a political appointment elected by the member states of their respective regions, and their budgetary powers are independent of the organization ’s headquarters. The Ebola crisis in 2014 showed that the system empowered officials of regional offices to subject member states to political considerations of the World Health Organization ’s public health requirements and postponed the declaration of a public health emergency by two months. This system is maddening, but instead of frustrating us, it is better to use our own diplomatic and financial power to promote reform.
Finally, a reformed World Health Organization should address the issue of obtaining high-demand vaccines. We know that when the COVID-19 vaccine was developed, every country wanted to vaccinate its citizens first, resulting in inefficient distribution. In the past, we have seen far fewer fatal diseases. For example, during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, Australia was one of the first countries to produce vaccines, but because the Australian government wanted to take care of its citizens first, it did not immediately export it. The World Health Organization, in coordination with other organizations such as the Epidemic Prevention Innovation Alliance, can and should play a leading role in establishing an unprecedented scale of vaccine production and distribution. This will require the establishment of a fair and effective vaccine distribution system.
This is when the United States invests further, not withdraw from the World Health Organization. If we turn these investments into carrots for reform, the rewards may be huge. Granting to the World Health Organization in a global pandemic is a short-term madness. And giving up an opportunity to work hard to meaningfully reform an institution that may stop the next pandemic in appropriate circumstances is a foreign policy misconduct.
When COVID-19 weakened the US aircraft carrier, it breezed through border control and did not respond to Trump ’s flamboyant talk, and the president ’s national security script was dilapidated. Trump and his allies did not admit that their narrow narrow concept of national defense was wrong, but did what they always did when they concluded that reality is biased against them: they found someone to blame . This time is the World Health Organization. But the fact is that transnational threats like epidemics still exist, and American security will increasingly rely on our diplomatic power to strengthen and improve international health organizations such as the World Health Organization. It is disturbing that the President did not realize this fact, but regarded institutions like the World Health Organization as tools to save lives and save face.
Chris Murphy is a US senator from Connecticut who served on the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate.
Picture: United States Mission to Geneva (Photo by Eric Bridiers)