President Xi's generous promises to share a (non-existent) Chinese COVID vaccine "with the world" while extending some $2 billion in aid to the poorest nations apparently failed to dissuade the 54-member African Union bloc of nations from supporting a resolution calling for a WHO-led investigation into China's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Of course, Xi said during his keynote address during this year's annual meeting of the WHO (which is being held virtually) that China supports a "comprehensive evaluation" of the factors behind the outbreak, while Chinese tabloid editors have sneered that the world better not complain when the outcome shows the US, not China, is responsible for the outbreak.
China is not afraid of an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, hope the US is not afraid of it either. Regardless where the virus originated, China's stance is the same. But if the investigation finds it originated in the US, Trump's reelection is doomed.— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) May 18, 2020
President Trump promised in a tweet shortly after the news broke that "we are with them" regarding Australia's resolution for a COVID inquiry with a tweet...
We are with them! https://t.co/H7DRHXPJYb— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2020
...which prompted even more Chinese disinformation.
The WHA should take note: President Trump said last week that the US began developing COVID-19 vaccine on Jan 11. But at that time the whole world, including China, knew little about this virus, where did the US acquire the knowledge? It should be a focus of the investigation.— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) May 18, 2020
A coalition consisting of more than 110 nations has formed to back the inquiry, according to reports in the Australian press.
The African Union's 54 member states will co-sponsor the Australian motion, joining 62 other countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain, the US and Canada, along with all of the European Union's 27 members as well as Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and New Zealand.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday said it was encouraging to see so many countries backing the inquiry.
"I think what it illustrates is a broad view that given the experience of COVID-19 - over 300,000 deaths, millions of people around the world losing their jobs, the impact on economies from one corner of the globe to the other - that there is a strong view that it is appropriate to engage in a review of what has happened."
"I don't want to preemptively speculate about the outcome, those discussions will be under way later this evening. I think it's a win for the international community."
The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.
Repudiating Beijing's claims that the investigation is 'political sabotage', Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Monday it was important to "get to the bottom" of what had happened during the early days of the outbreak.
"I think the most important thing, rather than apportioning blame to one particular country or another country, is that we get to the bottom of what's happened. And part of that is about the origin, where this virus came from," he reportedly told a group of journalists.
Meanwhile, Australia is mulling whether to file a complaint against China with the WTO over the 80% tariffs on barley exports imposed on Monday after an "investigation". It's just the latest reminder that Beijing is no stranger to 'political sabotage' of its own.
As we noted earlier, Rabobank's Michael Every warned clients in a note published Monday morning that this year's WHO meeting will be especially tense, saying it "has all the makings of a contemporary Khrushchev-bashing-his-shoe-on-the-table-at-the-UN moment."