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STEPHEN GLOVER: Donald Trump is a braggart but he has a point about China's role in the coronavirus crisis

STEPHEN GLOVER: Donald Trump is a braggart but he has a point about China's role in the coronavirus crisis
Were U.S. President Donald Trump a thatch-haired schoolboy, rather than the most powerful man on Earth, I've no doubt he would be the bane of his poor teachers' lives and attract their ire. 
They would point out that his bitterest foe of one moment sometimes becomes his closest buddy the next. They would complain about his perennial lies. 
They would note his nasty habit of trying to shift the blame on to others. 
One way or another, Trump junior would be an enormous pain in the backside, and his termly reports would be full of reproving remarks about his boastfulness, mendacity, self-righteousness and generally questionable character. 
And yet a fair-minded teacher would have to concede that, for all his defects, the wayward pupil is sometimes able to extract a nugget of truth which evades the notice of more conventional minds, even if he is then inclined to fly off at a tangent. 
President Trump announced on Tuesday that he would be freezing all funds from Washington to the World Health Organisation (WHO)
President Trump announced on Tuesday that he would be freezing all funds from Washington to the World Health Organisation (WHO)
So it is with the President's attack on the World Health Organisation (WHO), which Donald Trump accused of being 'China-centric' before announcing on Tuesday that he is freezing the funding it receives from Washington.
In the past two years, the U.S. has been the body's biggest donor, giving $893million (£711million).
Britain is its second biggest benefactor among major countries, shelling out $435 million (£346million), followed by Germany and Japan. 
China has contributed just $86 million (£79 million) over the same period. 
This is not the time, in the midst of the worst pandemic for a century, to turn off the funding tap to the only global organisation fighting it. 
It looks peevish and mean-spirited. I'm glad the UK is not following suit.  
Nor do I doubt that part of Trump's motivation is to deflect some of the fire being directed at him for his flawed management of the crisis towards China and the WHO. This, after all, is election year. 
The fact remains, however, that the WHO (a United Nations agency) is a very flawed outfit. It has been far too accommodating of Beijing. 
For its part, China has many questions to answer about the way it suppressed information following the outbreak of the contagion in Wuhan last December. 
STEPHEN GLOVER: WHO's recent leadership, and in particular, its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured), leaves much to be desired
STEPHEN GLOVER: WHO's recent leadership, and in particular, its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured), leaves much to be desired
Let's deal first with the WHO's shortcomings. I don't doubt it has done many excellent things over the years, such as helping to eliminate smallpox and virtually getting rid of polio.
But its recent leadership, and in particular, its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, leaves much to be desired. 
The first head of the WHO not to be a doctor, he was Minister of Health in the ­Ethiopian government before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs. 
It was, and remains, one of the most repressive regimes in Africa with an appalling human rights record. 
China is a close ally, and when Ghebreyesus sought the top job at the WHO he received the enthusiastic backing of Beijing. 
The measure of the man's politics may be judged by his sponsorship of the ghastly Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe as a WHO 'goodwill ambassador' in 2017. 
Mugabe was a long-term protégé of China's. Last September, he finally went to meet his maker, who must have had some searching questions. 
When Ghebreyesus visited Beijing at the end of January, he met President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People. 
Neither then, nor in other settings, has he criticised the communist regime for detaining the doctors warning about a potential epidemic. 
They were — monstrously — accused of spreading false 'rumours'. 
Far from chiding his hosts, Ghebreyesus extolled Xi Jinping's 'very rare leadership', and hailed China for 'transparency'. 
Later, he asserted that Beijing was 'setting a new standard for outbreak response' and deserved to be 'congratulated' for safeguarding 'the people of the world'. 
It's true that, during February, Trump himself repeatedly praised Xi Jinping's response to the crisis, saying he had handled it 'really well' and was doing 'a very good job with a very, very tough situation'. 
But the President's intermittent idiocy doesn't get Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and his sycophancy off the hook. 
I'm not qualified to say whether the contagion could have been contained within China if the WHO had got to grips with it earlier. 
What is undeniable is that, instead of holding Beijing to account, its director-general has covered this secretive and despotic regime with roses. 
His indulgent behaviour should be contrasted with that of one of his predecessors, the Norwegian Gro Harlem Brundtland, who in 2003 attacked China for making similar attempts to cover up Sars, a lethal viral respiratory disease. It was controlled before doing too much damage. This is my question. 
Can Trump reasonably be criticised for lambasting the WHO over its excessively cosy relations with China, more so as the United States is the body's leading donor? I don't think so. 
Almost certainly, what psychologists call 'displacement' is at work in that turbulent Trumpian mind. 
In berating the World Health Organisation, the American President is redirecting his outrage against an infinitely larger and far more lethal adversary — China. 
And here we should set aside whatever misgivings we may justifiably harbour about Trump, and examine the facts. Beijing was the cradle of the disease. 
Communist apparatchiks kept the truth from the world. 
They almost certainly deliberately downplayed the number of fatalities by a huge amount. 
Yet there hasn't been the merest trace of contrition, far less an apology. 
On the contrary, a month ago a spokesman in the Chinese Foreign Ministry suggested that the U.S. military might have been responsible for the outbreak. 
How preposterous! Instead of disseminating lies, China should be expressing its regret for having nurtured the disease, which almost certainly was transferred to humans by bats or pangolins in a so-called 'wet market' in Wuhan selling wildlife products. 
These wet markets were closed after the Sars outbreak but reopened again, with disastrous consequences for the rest of the world. 
Almost unbelievably, the WHO last week claimed they could be made to sell safe food with increased hygiene practices, and refused to support their closure as they are deemed an important source of food and income. 
China, of course, is emerging from the crisis with its economy in reasonable shape. 
According to the International Monetary Fund, it is likely to perform much better than any other major economy this year, and return to buoyant growth next. 
Meanwhile, the country struts around as a humanitarian superpower, dispensing aid to countries such as Italy that have been far worse stricken by the virus, and showering its largesse around the world. 
This is not about blame — though Trump wants it to be. 
It is about reassessing our relationship with an alien and scary country, and limiting its future role in shaping our affairs.
It's no longer tenable that the Chinese government-controlled company Huawei should be instrumental in setting up our 5G mobile network. 
Trump at least half understands all this. Unfortunately, he risks shooting himself (again) in the foot by suspending WHO funding, since the shortfall will be made up by China, already consolidating its power in other UN agencies. 
The President may be compared to an unruly child. He may behave like a fool. 
But there is sometimes a grain of sense in what he says. China — both begetter and beneficiary of the coronavirus — is not our friend.

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