Jackson Cyr / Edge columnist
In recent weeks, criticism of the World Health Organization (WHO) has grown due to increasing links to Chinese influence delaying the WHO in responding to the outbreak of COVID-19. Western media outlets such as CNN and Fox News have both reported on China’s influence over the organization, and CNN in particular has attributed wealth as one of the main factors contributing to China’s influence over it. The claim that China is influencing the WHO, while rooted in fact, is reported with a degree of western, anti-communist bias in the major media networks.
In a CNN article written about China’s influence, there are several points made about how China has influenced the WHO. The first point is that Taiwan was denied membership in it because of Chinese claims on its territory. These claims date back to the Chinese civil war, when the Kuomintang were pushed off of mainland China, into Taiwan. The issue of Taiwan being excluded from participation in the WHO is, in the opinion of reporter James Griffiths, the problem that makes “Beijing’s political sway at the WHO most clear”. This is the point that provides the most evidence for Chinese influence because leaving Taiwan out of WHO activities puts the country in danger in the event of a pandemic like COVID by denying Taiwan international support and access to WHO resources.
The article also states that WHO officials have consistently praised China and has not viewed its infection numbers and response with any skepticism. The article does have a hole in its argument, however. It claims that one of the reasons the WHO is influenced by China is because China is a wealthy nation that provides financial support to the organization.
In reality, the U.S, where CNN is based, was scheduled to contribute $115.8 million to it before President Donald Trump suspended funding. This is over twice as much money as China pledged. The bias of CNN, as a major American media outlet, is anti-China to an extent because it suggests that money is a factor in the influence of the WHO and ignores the fact that the U.S. contributes far more than China so it would, in theory, have greater influence over it.
The CNN article also missed out on comparing China’s influence with other major nations. It never mentioned anything about the United States influence on the WHO, even though as previously mentioned it is the biggest contributor to the organization and has also played an important role in previous disease outbreaks by sending medical professionals and supplies to other countries just as China is doing now. This is once again an example of bias against China as much of what China is doing now to influence it the U.S. has done in the past. It is biased to only show Chinese influence and not even acknowledge U.S. influence. This bias is caused mainly by the fact that CNN is an American media outlet, which means that their target audience is American citizens. Having this target audience means that CNN wants to display more critical news about communist countries such as China because of long held anti-communist sentiment in American society which developed during the Cold War in the 20th century.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, has publicly stated that he would face a formal inquiry into his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could reveal Chinese influence. However, no such inquiry will be possible until it is over. While it seems likely China has influenced the response to COVID-19, American media should not forget that China is not the only country that influences the actions of the WHO.