In the midst of the 2020 global pandemic and the rapid spread of the Coronavirus within the United States, President Donald Trump declared he would stop U.S. funding the WHO entirely: a sum that is around $400 million annually. The following week, President Xi Jinping of China offered up another $30 million to the WHO, which indeed still does leave the organization with a large gap in their budget. However, China’s contributions comes along with a lot of influence in the organization as a whole, and China’s proportionately growing clout in the WHO has caught a lot of attention.
In the past couple of years, many in the United States and other Western nations have noticed what some observers have labeled “checkbook diplomacy” out of Beijing. The basic nuts and bolts of the trend are as follows: after World War II, for decades the United States was the global leader in the establishment of a liberal world order which China has naturally been gaining influence within as their role on the global stage has been growing. China’s sphere of influence is not restricted to just the WHO, but also includes the United Nations, many of their sub-committees, as well as other international organizations.
Quite noticeable has been that while the sum of the funding that China has begun to contribute to international organizations is still often dwarfed by the amount given by the United States, the amount of influence that China has been gaining has been quite significant. One aspect of this dynamic is the fact that U.S. foreign policy as a whole has been very contractionary under the Trump administration, so a lot of the space that the United States has vacated has been filled with Chinese influence.