Hayward: WHO, International Bodies Must Be Purged of Chinese Communist Influence

TOPSHOT - This picture taken on October 10, 2017 shows a party flag of the Chinese Communist Party displayed at an exhibition showcasing China's progress in the past five years at the Beijing Exhibition Center. China's police and censorship organs have kicked into high gear to ensure that the party's …
WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

It is very good that President Donald Trump called out the World Health Organization (WHO) for being “China-centric” and threatened to withhold funding, but we should be demanding specific measures to purge it of Chinese influence, beginning with a list of mandatory resignations topped by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

WHO should also present an action plan for cleansing itself of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence, and every other international organization that asks for American funding should do the same. One simple step in the right direction would be banning anyone from a country that participates in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) from assuming top leadership posts.

BRI is China’s massive program of debt colonialism: a multi-trillion-dollar plan to buy influence across the Third World and pressure smaller countries to take out loans from Chinese banks they can never repay. The important work on Belt and Road projects tends to be done by imported Chinese engineers, not local labor, which further extends China’s influence in the host country. BRI projects are often boondoggles designed to please the ruling elite or give them opportunities to enrich themselves.

The Trump administration has correctly criticized BRI since Trump’s early days in office. Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, traveled the world warning of “debt traps” lurking within China’s extravagant infrastructure proposals. His successor Mike Pompeo warned Belt and Road targets that they risk dangerously compromising their political independence and national security by signing on.

The performance of WHO under Director-General Tedros during the coronavirus pandemic was so comprehensively awful that investigating his ties to the CCP should hardly be necessary to demand his removal before further U.S. support is provided to the organization. WHO was wrong about the Wuhan virus at every turn, its advice – from spreading Chinese misinformation about the virus, to undermining protective measures such as travel bans and face masks – perfectly in tune with the CCP’s political agenda, but worse than useless for each new set of countries attacked by the pandemic. 

WHO arguably did more to spread the virus than contain it, which helped Beijing avoid being the only country to suffer trillions of dollars in damage from the outbreak. Indeed, every single “mistake” made by WHO at every point on the timeline is consistent with the theory that Communist China wanted to export the virus so it would no longer be seen as “the sick man of Asia,” a phrase that so infuriated the CCP that it expelled foreign journalists after the words were used in a Wall Street Journal editorial.

That editorial in early February was specifically about the immense damage the Wuhan epidemic was inflicting on China’s economy and how it was making China’s foreign business partners nervous. If China was the only country to suffer economic devastation from the coronavirus, its Belt and Road ambitions would be dashed, and BRI would become an unaffordable anchor wrapped around the CCP’s neck. Thanks to false information from China uncritically repeated by WHO, the rest of the world is chained to that anchor as well, so the CCP’’s global agenda for the coming century is still alive.

It is not inappropriate to investigate the WHO director’s ties to China, which include a major Belt and Road project and other investments in Ethiopia, where Tedros was a public official and a member of a menacing ethno-nationalist Marxist political party with a history of terrorism and oppression called the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Tedros has a clear history of political cooperation with the CCP, most notoriously in his astounding attempt to name monstrous Zimbabwean dictator and close China ally Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador.

Tedros is clearly unacceptable as WHO director and should already have resigned to accept responsibility for the organization’s catastrophic failures. Instead, he is fighting for his office with a mixture of CCP-style threats and accusations of racism, a political battle that will further compromise the actual mission of WHO. (Of course, Tedros is accusing everyone else of “politicizing” the organization, rather than himself and the Chinese government.) 

Tedros’s performance should make it clear to every WHO member nation other than China that he is far more trouble than he is worth. His ouster should be a non-negotiable precondition for the next dollar of U.S. support given to the World Health Organization, and he isn’t the only official who needs to go. WHO actually praised China for transparency while Beijing was systematically violating every WHO rule, refusing to allow outside observers into critical areas, and feeding obviously false information to the international community. The director-general could not corrupt WHO so thoroughly by himself.

If any of WHO’s rules and standards are meaningful at all, then China’s membership must be revoked. China should become an observer with no influence on decision-making while Taiwan, author of the world’s best coronavirus response plan, should be elevated to full membership. China should never have been allowed to block Taiwan from membership and must not be allowed to prevent it for one more day. 

This is not just a moral imperative, but a practical need for the entire world. The Taiwanese have ruefully observed they did better against the pandemic because they did not listen to WHO or the false Chinese information it was spreading, and they say WHO still isn’t forwarding all of their data to the world. As the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry put it, that means WHO is still lying to the world at China’s behest, because WHO falsely claims it is sharing “best practices” from around the globe.

That is an utterly damning indictment of the WHO, and it can only be corrected by cleansing top leadership of all CCP influence. China’s road back to membership must begin with implementing real transparency measures, including full access to international observers and the immediate release of “vanished” journalists, whistleblowers, and doctors. China must also close the infamous “wet markets” that spawn so many epidemics, and if the WHO has decent leadership after Tedros is gone, it will loudly repeat that demand every day until Beijing complies.

Beijing would respond with outrage to its demotion from WHO and Taiwan’s elevation. Good. Beijing should be sputtering with impotent rage right now. The pride of the Chinese Communist Party is literally the least important thing on Earth while the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

WHO is not the only international organization that America and its allies must work to purge of CCP influence. The sad truth is that Chinese money and political muscle have corrupted many international organizations with influence on American and European politics. That is why China can pump all the greenhouse gases it wants without worrying about protests from “climate change” activists, and why those wet markets can traffic in endangered species like the pangolin – quite possibly the animal that began the spread of the Wuhan virus into humans – without much hassle from animal rights or environmentalist groups. 

How can anyone who spent the past four years howling about “collusion” and foreign influence over American politics possibly be comfortable with the Chinese Communist Party’s clear influence over WHO and other groups that command both vast sums of American money and constant attention from U.S. journalists and politicians?

The CCP aggressively uses its economic leverage as “sharp power” to corrupt foreign institutions. As the few people honest enough to discuss the matter in Hollywood could tell you, the CCP forces foreign corporations and non-governmental organizations to dance to its political tune if they want access to the Chinese marketplace. Well, the United States has plenty of sharp power too, and it is long past time for us to start using it to reform international organizations, beginning with WHO in this hour of pandemic crisis. We have been unilaterally disarmed in the sharp power war for much too long. We just heard one of the loudest calls to arms in history.

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