SINGAPORE -- As car crash interviews go, Bruce Aylward's was excruciating and revealing in equal measure. In late March, Alyward, a Canadian epidemiologist and adviser to the World Health Organization, was asked by Radio Television Hong Kong reporter Yvonne Tong whether Taiwan would continue to be denied WHO membership, given longstanding objections from China. At first he stalled, claiming not to be able to hear the question. Then his connection went down. Then Aylward returned to the call and declined to answer at all.
The clip went viral in part for its awkwardness, but also because it illustrated a deeper truth -- namely that geopolitical fissures, and strained relations between the U.S. and China in particular, have badly undermined early international efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. And while that suspicion starts with the WHO, it does not end there.