Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to China’s top diplomat for the second time in a month, this time pressing China to be fully transparent about the pandemic.
In an April 15 phone call with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, Pompeo stressed “the need for full transparency and information sharing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent future outbreaks,” according to a State Department statement.
Pompeo has on numerous occasions criticized Beijing for covering up the scale of the outbreak in China and not sharing accurate data.
Most recently, on April 13, Pompeo told German broadcaster Bild TV, that “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) didn’t provide that information in a timely fashion,” according to the State Department transcript.
“That’s most unfortunate because it created real risk around the world,” he added.
The phone call came on the same day that President Donald Trump declared that U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) would be halted for 60 to 90 days, pending a review “to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
Pompeo also spoke with Yang about “the aid the American people delivered to the people of China in January–and continue to offer—and the high importance we attach to China’s facilitation of medical supply exports to meet critical demand in the United States,” according to the statement.
China manufactures much of the medical supplies now needed to help contain the virus or treat patients.
According to an April 6 report published by the Congressional Research Service, the United States imported about $20.7 billion of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and products, and related supplies from China in 2019, accounting for 9.2 percent of total U.S. imports.
But according to the report, Beijing’s policies in the wake of the CCP virus outbreak likely exacerbated global shortages.
For example, on Feb. 3, China’s Ministry of Commerce directed local governments and industry to secure critical medical supplies and medical-related raw material inputs from the global market.
The ministry also called on regional offices in China and other countries to work with Chinese industry associations to secure supplies from global sources and have them sent back to China.
Meanwhile, China’s economic planning ministry NDRC directed local medical-related factories, including production lines owned by U.S. companies, to make products for domestic use.
The report said such policies “contributed to sharp decreases in China’s exports of these critical medicals to the world.”
For the first two months of this year, China exported to the United States fewer key supplies needed for fighting COVID-19, compared to the same period last year.
For example, China exported 8 percent less surgical and medical gloves; 12 percent less spectacles and goggles; 35 percent less ventilators and respiration apparatus; and 70 percent less medical sterilizers.
Meanwhile, China imported much more of those supplies from the United States: 93 percent, 164 percent, 209 percent, and 317 percent, respectively, compared to the same period last year.
China’s state-run media Xinhua and People’s Daily did not mention Pompeo’s requests for transparency and supply exports in their media reports about the phone call. The two media stated that Yang expressed how China “is willing to continue to share information and experience on epidemic control with the United States.”
In their last phone call in March, Pompeo condemned China for spreading disinformation and rumors about the CCP virus. The phone call came after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian pushed on Twitter an unfounded allegation that the virus was brought into China by the U.S. army.