China and Australia trade barbs . . .
An increasing number of states are requesting an independent investigation into the causes of the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China, and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) response. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that Australia, as a member state of WHO’s Executive Board, will push for an investigation at the annual assembly that begins on May 17. China’s ambassador to Australia, Jingye Cheng, responded to the announcement by threatening a potential economic boycott of Australian products. Both governments traded barbs this week before toning down hostilities. The spat, according to some experts, has brought Australia-China relations to their lowest point in history.
U.S. unproven theory vs China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy . . .
Chinese ambassadors have been leading the charge abroad, pushing Beijing’s rhetoric and defending its virus response through an aggressive style of diplomacy, often engaging in a war of words with their host countries and through social media. China’s ‘Wolf Warrior diplomacy’ seems to have backfired and further antagonized many countries. For example, Australia doubled down on its intent to push for an investigation and restated its commitment to supporting outlier Taiwan’s accession to the WHO, with the European Commission backing Australia’s play. But U.S. President Trump keeps contradicting the intelligence community by repeating an unfounded claim that the COVID-19 virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory, exacerbating tensions and undercutting calls for an independent investigation.
Canada’s response . . .
The Canadian government has so far refused to join the blame game. Prime Minister Trudeau has repeated that now is not the time for criticism, but for international co-operation. But Canada may ultimately face the conundrum of joining forces with countries such as Australia, France, and others as they continue to push for an investigation, or sticking with a more nuanced approach to avoid infuriating Beijing. It is certainly in Canada’s best interest to have an an independent investigation – in which China is a willing and collaborative participant. This will lead to a better co-ordinated global response to future pandemics. Throwing blame around in an already tense global situation, not so much.