Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative Party member of the British parliament and who is normally tough on authoritarianism, is advocating more power for the World Health Organization (WHO) to mitigate the risk of another pandemic, which he likens to a nuclear weapon. To contain the remarkably destructive power of viruses, he proposes greater investigatory power for the WHO.
“As the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee recommends in a report, we could give the WHO the power to launch their own investigations, the right of access and the right to report, as the IAEA has today,” Tugendhat, chair of the UK foreign affairs committee, wrote in the Financial Times.
Such investigatory powers would be useful to discover the likely origin of COVID-19 in China, and fix whatever procedural, regulatory, or other practices that allowed the virus’ release into the human population. Beijing has been notoriously lacking in transparency and refused to cooperate with international inspectors.
So the WHO is more likely to turn its increased power against Beijing’s enemies, rather than be an effective tool to hold the CCP accountable for COVID-19’s origin and its failures during the initial outbreak.
In June, China’s ambassador to France proposed that the WHO investigate Fort Detrick in the United States as the origin of the virus. The British committee’s proposal to strengthen the WHO’s investigatory power is, therefore, at least as likely to be the UK shooting its ally the United States in the foot, as a tougher measure against Beijing.
Xi Jinping himself wants more power given to the U.N. and the WHO, but don’t expect him and his many allies, bought on the cheap, to cooperate with international institutions when they do not serve the CCP’s interests. Given the CCP’s outsized influence at the U.N., Xi can ignore international organizations at will, or use them against his adversaries just as readily and for the same reason.
Advocating for a more powerful weapon, when not taking into account who has the preponderance of control over the weapon, is irresponsible.
That Xi sees the U.N. as an extension of Beijing’s power was indicated when he told the U.N. General Assembly in September 2020 that multilateralism “with the U.N. at its core” was essential. He argued, “We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the World Health Organization (WHO) and launch an international response to beat this pandemic.”
The CCP is already attempting to use U.N. organizations against the world’s democratic bulwarks, including the United States and its closest allies. In June, for example, Beijing called for a U.N. investigation of Canada for alleged crimes against indigenous people. It used the call to deflect attention from its own proven genocide against Uyghurs, not to mention Tibetans and Falun Gong.
As China’s global influence grows, it acquires more leadership over the U.N. Currently, it leads four of the international institution’s 15 specialized agencies and groups: the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and most recently, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). A Chinese national led Interpol as well, until the CCP detained him in 2018 and convicted him of corruption.
Approximately 30 U.N. institutions signed memoranda that support China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is essentially Chinese export promotion, checkbook diplomacy, and debt trap financing wrapped into one and masquerading as international development. China can then present BRI as positive U.N.-approved development.
Which U.N. agencies Beijing does not control directly, it influences mediately through trade threats, trade sanctions, trade inducements, development grants, development loans, and outright bribery of elected and non-elected officials, as well as their closest associates and family members through, for example, sweetheart business deals or outright “gifts” in the form of stacks of cash or precious stones.
Beijing ensures the commitments it receives from those it influences by spying on them. In 2019, the CCP sent a delegation of approximately 80 to 100 people to a Rome vote for the director general of the FAO. They recorded, including with video cameras and high-powered telephoto lenses, what was supposed to be a secret ballot. The Chinese candidate won.
After Beijing violated its treaty with Britain and sacked Hong Kong, two rival declarations on the subject circulated at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2020. The one by Cuba supporting Beijing’s violent illiberality in Hong Kong won the votes of 53 nations. The British declaration expressing concern won only 27.
“Gaining influence at the U.N. permits China to stifle international scrutiny of its behavior at home and abroad,” according to Yaroslav Trofimov, Drew Hinshaw, and Kate O’Keeffe in the Wall Street Journal. “In March , Beijing won a seat on a five-member panel that selects U.N. rapporteurs on human-rights abuses—officials who used to target Beijing for imprisoning more than a million Uighurs at so-called re-education camps in Xinjiang.”
Ashok Malik, a senior adviser to India’s foreign ministry, got it right when he told the Journal, “If you control important levers of these [international] institutions, you influence norms, you influence ways of thinking, you influence international policy, you inject your way of thinking.”
Beijing buys its influence at the U.N. on the cheap, contributing only $1.3 billion to the U.N. system in 2018, compared with the $10 billion annual cost to the United States.
Given Beijing’s inordinate influence at the U.N., unrealistic proposals for more U.N. power to counter the CCP’s problems, such as frequent viral outbreaks in China, is unconscionably naive.
The CCP’s pirating of the U.N., which is supposed to support democracy, human rights, and territorial integrity around the world, even as Beijing commits genocide, avoids accountability for COVID-19, and threatens to invade democratic Taiwan, should be a wake up call.
What is additionally outrageous is that the world’s political leaders, including “conservatives,” continue to countenance mainland China’s membership in the U.N., while advocating more power to the organization. They thereby put the CCP cart before the horse of democracy on a crumbling precipice of globalization.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.