Fri, Feb 07, 2020 - Page 8 News List

WHO has become China’s lapdog

By Yu Jie 余杰

There were two interesting observations to be made from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) meeting with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Beijing on Tuesday last week.

First, Xi was sitting there like an emperor receiving tribute, while Tedros looked like a dog simpering at his master’s feet, desperate to please.

The WHO head hails from the poor African nation of Ethiopia, which is the recipient of a big whack of Chinese foreign aid, and is an “old friend” of China.

It is difficult to know exactly how adept he is at his job, or how much money he has received from China, but the man certainly knows the rules of court etiquette and how to shake hands with Xi, as anyone with any common sense would as the head of a WHO under China’s spell.

Second is the arrangement of the three tables, set side by side, separating the two men. Never before have we seen such an arrangement when a Chinese leader receives a foreign guest.

The visitor might as well have been seated on the other side of the world. Clearly, Xi was feeling a little fragile, scared for all the world that he might get infected with 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

His guest did not come from the epidemic-hit Wuhan region, but it did not matter: He was kept at a safe distance, regardless.

Xi is the great self-preserver, the sheep in wolf’s clothing, the inveterate coward. It is surely too much to expect him to make a personal appearance in Wuhan, to show how he loves all Chinese as he would love his own daughter, a little political street theater for the cameras.

During the meeting, Xi spoke of how he had personally orchestrated the response to the epidemic and had overseen the deployment of resources himself. He assured all who were listening that China has the confidence and ability to triumph over the virus, with its concerted efforts, scientific containment and targeted policies under the robust leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Here, he jerked back control over the anti-epidemic efforts and thrust them firmly into his own lap, as if the work of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), who has been entrusted with the fight against the outbreak, were nothing.

If Xi has been orchestrating the whole response, despite not officially being in charge of the efforts, then surely it will be his responsibility if the whole thing spirals out of control.

Xi’s rhetoric was replete with the lexicon of the battlefield, saying: “For the Chinese people, we are currently locked in a solemn struggle,” and “The strength of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, developed under the leadership of the CCP, is our precision tactics, and we have the confidence and the capability to win this battle.”

On top of this, the CCP issued an official “Notice on Strengthening Party Leadership, and Providing Staunch Political Guarantees for Winning the Battle of Prevention and Control against the Epidemic,” calling on party committees throughout the land to encourage and lead all party members and cadres to put their all into the battle against the outbreak, to fight with courage and to persevere until the battle is won.

This choice to use military metaphors can be interpreted in several ways.

First, Xi had come to the conclusion following discussion with his inner circle that the outbreak in China was far more serious than the state media reports had tried to make us to believe, and that the situation was comparable to a nation at the brink of war.

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