A week is a long time in politics.
In the last five months, the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has proven that. It’s been difficult to keep up with the totals of confirmed infections and deaths.
In the U.S., President Trump has altered his view so many times, it’s difficult to believe he actually holds one.
Perhaps the clearest demonstration of this has been his attitude towards China. In January, Trump Tweeted: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciate their efforts and transparency. It will work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
Just over three months later, the rhetoric had changed. By 3 May, China was no longer appreciated and definitely not transparent, according to Trump. Speaking at a Fox News town hall, he said: “My opinion is [China] made a mistake. They tried to cover it, they tried to put it out. It’s like a fire. […] They couldn’t put out the fire.”
Accusations, denials, counter-accusations and counter-denials have since flown between Washington and Beijing, to little or no effect.
Now, the president has reached a new and higher level of incompetence. At first, he criticised the World Health Organization (WHO), alleging that the official body, part of the United Nations, is favouring China in the dispute.
On 18 May, Trump sent a letter to the director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. It included his comments on what he sees as the organisation’s bias towards China, with demands of improvements within 30 days.
Yet, only 11 days later, he told members of the press at the White House that the U.S. will be terminating its relationship with the WHO, instead funding other worldwide public health needs.