China-US relations have deteriorated considerably over the course of novel coronavirus pandemic, for which top US leadership has sharply criticized China. China, on the other hand, has refused to take responsibility for its initial cover-up of the virus outbreak. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN body responsible for public health, is caught in the middle of the two quarreling giants.
An online G-20 conference has now become the latest victim of this superpower tug of war. A virtual leaders' summit of the Group of 20 (G20) nations was organized on Friday, which was to be attended by US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, but was called off at the last minute due to lack of consensus between the two nations.
Why was G20 virtual summit cancelled?
The dispute was over the role of WHO in Covid-19 pandemic. While the US insisted on holding the world health body accountable for its initial mishandling of the outbreak, China strongly resisted discussing any proposal to investigate WHO, South China Morning Post reported. However, the summit is expected to take place in the future, if the two nations agree on some compromise over the WHO.
USA sharpens attack on China, WHO
With the number of coronavirus cases in the United States nearing 1 million and the number of fatalities having surpassed 50,000, the US is the new epicenter of Covid-19, the disease that originated in Wuhan, China. With the number of cases and fatalities piling up, large regions of the country under lock-down and economic activities largely suspended, the US is blaming China and the WHO for its present crisis.
From accusing China of its initial cover-up and questioning the actual location where the virus originated, the US is questioning China's lack of transparency over virus outbreak. US President Donald Trump even raised suspicion over the actual number of fatalities reported in China.
Although WHO is being criticized worldwide for its alleged cover-up for China, mishandling of the initial outbreak and delay in declaring the disease a global pandemic, the harshest criticism has come from the US, which halted funding to the world health body. At a time when the US, the largest donor to the WHO, has suspended its funding, China has stepped up its own funding in order to garner more influence over the world health body.
G20 virtual summits during Covid-19 shut-down
Friday's summit was the second such meeting convened by the G20, currently presided by Saudi Arabia. It held its first summit on March 26, where the countries agreed to do "whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic" and roll out a $5 trillion package to help global economy.
Other than the leaders' summit convened on March 26, a slew of virtual meetings have taken place involving G20 ministers of health, trade, finance, agriculture and labor.
The 15th G20 summit is scheduled on 21-22 November in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Last year, it took place in June, at Osaka, Japan.