Geopolitics cast shadow over WHO Covid-19 conference

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

The coronavirus pandemic was supposed to be the only issue on the agenda for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual conference, but geopolitical tensions over the status of Taiwan are taking the spotlight as the two-day talks started on Monday.  

Ahead of the World Health Assembly of 194 WHO member states, which will take place online this year, the United States campaigned to allow Taiwan to take part as an observer again after a three-year absence.  Washington’s rival China has been blocking Taiwan’s participation since 2017, as Beijing considers the island democracy to be part of its territory.   The US and Taiwan have drummed up backing from Japan and some European countries including Germany, as well as from Caribbean and Central American countries.  

The issue is expected to lead to diplomatic wrangling, as most African countries back the position of China, which has established itself as a major investor on the continent.  

The Taiwan issue is only one way in which Washington has been challenging its global rival China at the WHO.  
US President Trump has suspended funding of the UN health agency in Geneva, accusing it of helping Beijing cover up how widespread and how dangerous the Covid-19 coronavirus disease was after it broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.  

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