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Instead of crafting a global plan, the U.S. and China -- the two world powers best suited to lead a coronavirus response -- have sniped at one another from the sidelines.    © Reuters
The Big Story

How coronavirus exposed the collapse of global leadership

The pandemic called for coordinated action. No one answered

JAMES CRABTREE, Contributing writer | East Asia

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.

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