Providing Strong Support for the Global Fight Against COVID-19 Through Pragmatic and Efficient International Scientific and Technological Cooperation
During the Extraordinary G20 Virtual Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 held at the end of March, President Xi Jinping stressed that the virus respects no borders and the coronavirus is our common enemy. He advocated that all countries pool their strengths to speed up research and development of drugs, vaccines, and testing in the hope of achieving early breakthroughs that will benefit all of humanity. On March 2, President Xi visited institutes in Beijing that were engaged in scientific research on containing the epidemic and emphasized the need to share scientific research data and information, jointly research and propose mitigation strategies, and contribute wisdom and energy to building a global community with a shared future.
I. Deepening international scientific and technological cooperation is vital for countries to combat COVID-19 together.
President Xi has stated that science and technology is humanity's most potent weapon for battling disease, and humans could not overcome major disasters and pandemics without scientific developments and technological innovations. Faced with the challenge of a virus that is spreading around the globe, all countries must work together and fully exert the permeable and diffuse nature of science and technology. At this critical juncture, in which humanity is confronted with a major public health challenge, finding solutions through scientific innovation is the fundamental approach for the international community to achieve ultimate victory over the pandemic.
Intensifying global cooperation on scientific and technological innovation in public health is an important part of building a global community with a shared future.
President Xi has emphasized that major infectious diseases are the enemy of all humanity. COVID-19 is a threat to the health and safety of people all over the world, and poses a new challenge to global public health security. In response to the pandemic, countries are drawing on each other's experience and adopting similar measures that have proven effective. The pandemic has made the people of all countries more aware that we share a common future and can only overcome difficulties by helping each other. Solving global problems and challenges has always been the important mission of scientific and technological innovation. Over the years, scientific researchers worldwide have carried out extensive and in-depth collaboration on a range of major issues, such as climate change, energy security, sustainable development, and poverty eradication with practical results. COVID-19 has increased the significance of strengthening international scientific and technological cooperation in the field of public health and impressed on people of all countries the practical significance and contemporary value of building a global community with a shared future. Scientific and technological innovation has played an important role in safeguarding global public health security, and it shoulders an important mission in building a global community with a shared future. All countries must firmly grasp innovation opportunities, intensify exchanges and cooperation on science, technology, and personnel when responding to global challenges such as public health issues, and find solutions together through scientific and technological innovation.
Chinese experts in Wuhan share experience in prevention and control during a COVID-19 briefing with the World Health Organization on March 27, 2020. After the outbreak began, the WHO repeatedly expressed its willingness to cooperate with China on scientific research related to the virus, while China actively provided the WHO with regular updates.
PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER CAI YANG
This severe pandemic highlights the urgency and necessity of international scientific and technological cooperation.
The virus is still spreading around the world, and the number of global confirmed cases is soaring. Affected countries have adopted a range of measures to accelerate research and development of drugs, vaccines, and testing reagents. Though researchers' understanding of this novel coronavirus is constantly improving, no specific medicine has yet been developed, and more time is needed before a vaccine will be available. Faced with the challenge posed by this new virus, no country is better off alone. It will be impossible to achieve a resounding victory by relying solely upon the scientific and technological strength of individual countries or regions. Hence, there is a dire need for pragmatic and effective international cooperation between the scientific and technological forces of all countries. We must draw on each other's strengths and build platforms together, step up experience sharing and information exchanges on combating the virus, bring together global advances in scientific and technological innovation, and work together to produce practicable and effective research results, so as to provide solid scientific and technological support for defeating the pandemic.
International scientific and technological cooperation is a tried and tested way of containing pandemics.
When human society faced the grave threat of major infectious diseases in the past, all countries worked together to combat them. The global flu pandemic in 1918 promoted the development of modern medicine and made the whole world realize the importance of establishing an international cooperation mechanism for pooling global strengths to fight pandemics. In the 1960s, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated the Global Smallpox Eradication Program. Despite being involved in the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union participated in the campaign. Using modern science and technology, scientists from many countries established a comprehensive monitoring and quarantine system to continuously improve vaccine research and development. With the concerted efforts of all countries, in 1980, the WHO declared that smallpox had been wiped out worldwide. During major epidemics of other infectious diseases, such as SARS, MERS, H5N1 influenza, H1N1 influenza, and Ebola, countries around the world responded jointly, and global scientific researchers worked together to seek solutions. The past demonstrates that only by combining and coordinating our efforts can we defeat major infectious diseases, which are the common enemies of all humanity. Mainstream foreign media and experts and scholars of major think tanks have called for major countries to strengthen scientific and technological cooperation on tackling COVID-19. Their voices echo the international expectation for all countries to join forces to combat the virus.
II. Advancing international scientific and technological cooperation is an important part of China's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the coronavirus struck, guided by the vision of building a global community with a shared future, Chinese scientific researchers have seized every opportunity to promote international scientific and technological collaboration while making every effort to combat the virus at home, for which they have received positive comments from international organizations and the governments and media of relevant countries.
Specifically, China has been working in the following eight areas to advance international scientific and technological cooperation.
First is actively sharing scientific data and information.
Chinese researchers quickly isolated and identified the virus strain and shared its whole genome sequences with the WHO, providing an important basis for global scientists to conduct research on drugs, vaccines, and diagnosis. China has proactively provided timely and regular updates on the spread of the virus to the WHO, participated in meetings of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee to share information and make scientific assessments with other affected countries. China's diagnosis, treatment, and containment plans have been translated into multiple languages, providing other countries with an important reference for formulating their own strategies to contain COVID-19.
Confronted with the grave threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to global health, countries around the world have strengthened cooperation on scientific research and worked together to expedite the development of vaccines, in an effort to equip humanity with the most effective weapons to defeat the virus.
Top left: A Chinese technician demonstrates the testing process for novel coronavirus mRNA vaccines. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER DING TING
Top right: An Israeli researcher works at the MIGAL-Galilee Research Institute in northern Israel. XINHUA / GINI PICTURES
Bottom left: A researcher conducts a novel coronavirus vaccine study at the University of Pittsburgh in the United States.
XINHUA / PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH MEDICAL CENTER
Bottom right: A scientist from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the national scientific institute of Australia, performs clinical trials on a novel coronavirus vaccine candidate. XINHUA
Second is building platforms for sharing scientific and research information.
The Chinese Medical Journal Network established an online platform for sharing and exchanging scientific and research progress on containing COVID-19, encouraging researchers to publish their scientific findings quickly and openly and share relevant data for free. Over 120 journals and 840 reports and papers are currently available, which has attracted more than 2.7 million page views, and a number of foreign researchers have also published papers on the platform. In addition, China has built two data sharing platforms named "Global Coronavirus Genomic Data Sharing and Analysis System" and "2019 Novel Coronavirus Resource," which have been used by over 200,000 people from 139 countries and regions to browse, retrieve and download data over 8 million times. With the assistance of these databases, domestic and foreign experts have been able to analyze the virus in depth, and their resulting high-level research papers have provided reference to international research and offered a scientific basis for all countries to combat the pandemic.
A group of medical experts dispatched by the Chinese government depart for Russia, April 11, 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread aggressively around the world, the Chinese government has sent a number of teams of medical experts to assist other countries in their anti-epidemic efforts so that humanity can defeat this common enemy.
PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XU XU
Third is developing multilevel mechanisms for communication and cooperation.
We have engaged in bilateral scientific and technological exchanges with relevant countries to respond to the pandemic. We have organized for the scientific and technological departments (groups) affiliated to our diplomatic and consular missions to connect with relevant government departments and members of the science, technology, and public health professions in host countries to explain China's research plans in response to the pandemic and progress of research, thereby strengthening bilateral and multilateral scientific and technological exchanges and cooperation. We have established exchange and cooperation mechanisms with relevant countries through consultations and discussed with them about launching joint research projects on the pandemic. Chinese medical teams are also sharing their treatment methods and experience in fighting the virus with affected countries they are dispatched to. We recommended and guided Chinese experts to participate in nine long- and medium- term key research programs and ten working groups related to the COVID-19 pandemic organized by the WHO and carried out information exchanges and cooperation on vaccine research and development with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
Fourth is promoting joint projects involving practical cooperation.
Chinese embassies and consulates abroad solicited suggestions from relevant countries on a number of scientific and technological collaboration projects. From among these projects, we have selected more mature ones that are able to yield valuable results via working together and already have domestic partners, and supported and facilitated cooperation on these selected projects. In addition, multiple Chinese enterprises are working with partners in other countries to develop vaccines.
Fifth is securing pragmatic results in international scientific and technological cooperation on containing the pandemic.
The severe challenge posed by COVID-19 presents an important opportunity to advance international scientific and technological cooperation. Combating the virus has brought the people of all countries closer together and created a tighter network of global scientific and technological innovation. As a responsible developing country, China will do all it can to promote open cooperation in science and technology and contribute the wisdom and strength of the Chinese scientific and technological communities and researchers to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sixth is sharing with the international community China's experience and methods of scientific research for combating COVID-19.
During the previous stage of combating the virus, China accumulated important experience in frontline clinical treatment and scientific research based on over 80,000 confirmed cases. This experience includes selecting and recommending effective medicines and treatment methods in batches, devising treatment strategies for different types of patients and stages of the clinical course, conducting research targeted at urgent needs in frontline treatment, striving to raise the recovery rate and reduce the fatality rate, and utilizing traditional Chinese medicine and treatments that combine traditional Chinese and Western medicines. Chinese researchers and medical workers are sharing effective practices with the international colleagues through various means so that other countries can benefit from them in combatting COVID-19. China stands ready to always work together with the international community in this regard.
Seventh is promoting dialogue and exchanges on pandemic containment policies.
China is maintaining close communication with international organizations and institutions such as the WHO and CEPI to share effective laboratory testing and clinical diagnosis and treatment methods, advance joint research on drugs and vaccines, and share data, information, models, and experience regarding containing the pandemic. Dialogue between countries can increase mutual understanding and learning of evaluation procedures, standards, and rules for developing drugs, vaccines, and testing reagents.
Eighth is building an international scientific and technological cooperation network for containing the pandemic.
China is exploring ways to establish inter-governmental scientific research communication and cooperation mechanisms and joint funding mechanisms with key research institutes of relevant countries and to intensify information sharing and experience exchanges on pandemic containment strategies, clinical treatment, and medical equipment. By providing scientific and technological aid and engaging in joint research, China is taking specific steps to perform its duties in global public health undertakings and contributing to safeguarding humanity's beautiful home.
Wang Zhigang is Minister of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China and Secretary of the ministry's CPC Leadership Group.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 8, 2020)