To Protect Global Health, Work with China
Xie Feng, Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
China is making headway in the battle against the Covid-19 epidemic. The daily number of new confirmed cases is declining nationwide, including in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and other cities in the province of Hubei. Suspected infections are being diagnosed more quickly. As of Thursday, out of about 78,800 confirmed cases, some 2,780 people had died and more than 36,000 had recovered.
Treating the people’s lives and health as a top priority, President Xi Jinping and the central government have acted decisively. More than 42,000 medical workers from across China rushed to Hubei. Comprehensive measures have been taken at the community level to track the health situation of the people. These efforts speak volumes about the Chinese leadership and its ability to mobilize and carry through its decisions.
It takes time to understand a new infectious disease, and any responsible government confronting such a challenge should act with rigor, strictly on the basis of science and evidence. China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced its genome and shared the information with the World Health Organization and other countries in record time.
It has explored multiple methods of diagnosis and treatment. Five drugs are undergoing clinical trials; animal testing has begun on potential vaccines. China has updated its national coronavirus diagnosis-and-treatment plan six times, refining it according to science and the facts.
The Chinese government has kept the public informed with daily updates and has solicited the people’s suggestions and complaints via the Internet and social media platforms. It has been highly responsive to public opinion, required officials to live up to their duties and continuously improved the nation’s public health emergency response system.
The lockdown of Wuhan was considered controversial at first, but it has proved to be sensible and effective. Bruce Aylward, who heads a special W.H.O. panel on the Covid-19 outbreak, said this week, after field investigations, that measures taken in the city had helped stem the spread of the virus.
What people in Wuhan and throughout China have done has probably prevented many more cases from occurring, and it has bought the rest of the world more time to prepare. Chinese people, especially those in Wuhan, should be recognized for the role they have played.
Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno: one for all, all for one. The Chinese people, with their perseverance and optimism, have readily sacrificed themselves and have faced this epidemic united as one, demonstrating the nation’s unique spirit and solidarity.
Life is now gradually returning to normal, and while it does, China remains committed to its economic and social development goals, to eradicating poverty and building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two characters: “danger” and “opportunity.” The epidemic will not dampen China’s growth in the long run; instead, it will create new momentum.
China, the world’s second largest economy, is resilient. It boasts a vast market of nearly 1.4 billion consumers; a middle class 400 million-strong; a talent pool of more than 170 million people with higher education or professional skills; more than 100 million entities engaged in commercial activities; and a full-fledged industrial system. The economic fundamentals for long-term, high-quality growth are sound.
The country is getting back to work in an orderly fashion, and people, goods and capital are moving more smoothly. Soon, the demand that has been suppressed by the epidemic will be released again. The Chinese economy will bounce back, strong.
China has ample tools to make macro policy adjustments. The Chinese government has introduced supportive fiscal and financial measures, including cuts on taxes and fees, and injections of liquidity in the stock market. The purpose of those measures is to cushion key regions, industries and businesses from any shortfalls in funding, manpower or raw materials in order to ensure their efficient economic performance and stabilize expectations on financial markets. The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, has said that China’s economy should be expected to “return to normal in the second quarter” of 2020 as “announced policies are implemented.”
The Chinese economy has been defying headwinds anyway, and upgrading fast. New forms and models of business are flourishing: remote health care, online education, virtual workplaces, zero-contact delivery, “buy online, pick up in store” e-commerce. Frontier technologies – 5G, big data and artificial intelligence – are growing, powering industrial transformation and facilitating the integration of the digital and the real economies. Blockchain, the unmanned economy and smart cities are taking off. Research and development in medical equipment, biopharmaceuticals and smart health care; the training of health professionals; innovation in health insurance plans and the improvement of the social security system – all these developments will unleash immense market and employment potential.
China is also a major engine for global growth, and protecting its supply chains means protecting international ones and sustaining growth worldwide. In the aftermath of the SARS epidemic in 2002-3, it was the committed and forward-looking foreign businesses that did not pivot away from China that then benefited the most from the economy’s rebound. And today, in these difficult times, Qualcomm, for example, has stated that its business plans in China would not be deflected by the current epidemic.
China is holding its ground not only for its own people but also for the rest of the world. We are deeply grateful to the governments and the people everywhere who have provided precious support and assistance. But the situation remains grave, and the number of cases is increasing in other countries and regions.
This is why it is important to pull together rather than look on passively, much less mock or play the blame game. Viruses do not respect borders, and China has been fighting hard at the front line. To support China now, with concrete actions, is also to protect global public health and promote the world’s stability and prosperity. China, for its part, is ready to share its experience with other affected countries, and lend a helping hand, especially to those with weaker public health systems.
But to win the battle against this disease, one must respect facts and science, neither spread nor buy into rumors and avoid panic or fear-mongering. Countries need to maintain normal trade and people-to-people exchanges, in line with the authoritative guidelines and regulations of the W.H.O. They should abide by international human rights agreements and avoid any discrimination.
It is also important to reject ideological biases and a Cold War-like mentality. Attempting to exploit this global public health crisis to smear China’s system or its people for geopolitical gain would be like spreading a political virus. Some conspiracy theories – including one peddled by an American lawmaker, which claims that the virus was a bioweapon originating from a Chinese lab – plumb the depths of immorality.
The Covid-19 outbreak is neither the first nor the last challenge to confront all of humankind. But today, unilateralism, protectionism and populism are on the rise; the multilateral trading regime is under attack; an arms race is heating up; and the threats of terrorism, climate change and cyberattacks are growing. All these test human wisdom, international coordination and global governance.
Nonetheless, one hopes that after the Covid-19 epidemic passes into history, we can all remember this period not only for China’s commitment and contribution to global public health, but also because the international community will have displayed solidarity through these tough times.
Let us transcend differences in social systems, history, culture and levels of development; let us share in weal and woe to protect our global village together and keep building “a community with a shared future for mankind,” as President Xi has proposed. Only when the world thrives will China prosper, and a prosperous China will only lead to a better world.