China faces backlash in the West / Image=Wikipedia
[Newsphopick=Gyubin Lee] Chinese leader Xi Jinping made preserving diplomatic ties in Africa a centerpiece of his opening address at the World Health Assembly earlier this week, as Beijing faces a backlash among some Western democracies for its role in the coronavirus pandemic.
With the traditional big donors to Africa, such as Europe and the United States, focused on containing the continued spread of the virus, Xi moved to position China, which has its own outbreak largely under control, as the global leader in health.
At the gathering of World Health Organization (WHO) member states, Xi pledged to give $2 billion to the WHO over the next two years to assist developing economies -- and reminded Africa that its long relationship with Beijing had seen Chinese aid help treat 200 million Africans over the past seven decades.
Xi committed to helping 30 hospitals in Africa, setting up a pan-African health authority on the continent and supporting an affordable vaccine there, once one has been found. But Xi's offerings weren't just about taking the lead in Africa: they were about securing support at a critical and precarious juncture in Beijing's relationship with the continent.
While no African head of state has yet publicly criticized China's response to the virus, earlier this week the African group backed a European Union-drafted resolution co-signed by more than 100 countries calling for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic.
That comes after African ambassadors last month wrote an unprecedented joint letter to Beijing demanding answers for the mistreatment of African residents in China during the coronavirus crisis. As the coronavirus leaves China increasingly isolated on the world stage, Xi's speech made it clear how vital the support of African nations is to Beijing.