China Welcome's Biden's WHO Return amid 'Grim Situation' of US COVID-19

China has hailed the return of the United States to the World Health Organization, which former President Donald Trump had announced he would abandon over claims of China wielding undue influence over the agency overseeing the global response to the worst pandemic in a century.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded to President Joe Biden's turnaround on the WHO during Thursday's press conference in Beijing.

"With regard to the retraction of the U.S. withdrawal from WHO, we all know that WHO is a specialized institution in the field of international health and plays an important leading and coordinating role in international anti-epidemic cooperation," Hua said. "China always maintains that all countries should actively support WHO's work and jointly safeguard international public health security."

She commended the move amid the grave COVID-19 situation in the U.S., where daily deaths have topped 4,000 and total deaths just exceeded 400,000, the world's worst outcomes.

"In particular, against the grim situation of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, we welcome the return of the United States to WHO," Hua said, "and we are willing to strengthen cooperation with the United States and other countries."

joe, biden, executive, order, white, house
U.S. President Joe Biden signs a series of orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., after being sworn in at the U.S. Capitol on January 20. Biden signed a raft of executive orders aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor, reversing the process of leaving the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against COVID-19. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Biden informed recently reelected United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres that Washington was reinstating its commitment to the WHO on Wednesday, hours after the 46th president was sworn in. The following day, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci confirmed the decision and his own appointment as representative to the WHO.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the move in remarks referred to Newsweek by the WHO.

"Thank you, my brother Tony, and welcome to the WHO Executive Board as head of delegation for the United States of America," Tedros said. "Thank you, my friend, for your personal support for WHO over many years, and especially in the past year."

The WHO chief hailed the move as "a good day for WHO, and a good day for global health," and offered his best wishes to the new Biden administration.

"I assure you of WHO's continued commitment to support you with science, solutions, solidarity and service," Tedros said. "WHO is a family of nations. And we are all glad that the United States is staying in the family."

The novel coronavirus disease was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where health authorities informed the WHO of a cluster of pneumonia-like cases spreading across the region. The WHO began convening emergency meetings early last year and began to offer guidance to member states as the crisis deepened throughout 2020.

While all but seven countries—including North Korea—have reported COVID-19 cases, experiences with the disease have varied greatly, even among major powers.

China has largely managed to bring the disease under control, reporting now just about 100 daily cases after a months-long lull in new infections among its 1.4 billion people, with a total count of 100,000 cases and less than 5,000 deaths. The U.S., with about a quarter of the population, has recorded nearly 24.5 million instances of COVID-19 and more than 80 times the number of deaths in China.

Though Trump initially praised Chinese President Xi Jinping's handling of the disease, the U.S. leader quickly turned on his counterpart in Beijing as the outbreak spread rapidly at home. He and his top officials accused China of mishandling COVID-19 while attempting to link the disease to a top virology facility in Wuhan.

The Trump administration also accused the WHO of covering for China, and ultimately announced its plan to withdraw from the agency, for which the U.S. has been the top financial contributor. The move was met with international criticism and, in the wake of the U.S. exit, China announced it would contribute more to the WHO and global health efforts.

On the eve of Biden's inauguration, his pick for top diplomat, Antony Blinken, described Trump's hardline approach toward China as fundamentally "right." However, he also said he disagreed with some of the measures taken by the former administration, which lashed out on trade, human rights and geopolitical issues.

Yet just hours prior to Biden taking the oath of office, Hua reached out to the Biden administration, asking that it "work with China in strengthening dialogues, managing differences and expanding cooperation so as to return bilateral relations back to the right track of development at an early date, and better serve the people of the two countries and the whole world."