Forging Powerful Synergy for the Global Fight Against Covid-19
Just three decades into the new century, the world has been hit by the gravest global crisis since World War II.
A novel coronavirus, which does not respect borders or distinguish between races, has spread to every corner of the globe with terrifying speed. By June 12, there were over 7.4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, and more than 410,000 people had been killed by the virus.
This unprecedented crisis has affected all spheres—political, economic, and social. International travel has been cut off. Social governance has come under enormous strain. The world economy has sunk into recession, and the international order also has been seriously shaken.
From the outset, President Xi Jinping has closely followed the evolving epidemic situation both in China and around the world. He has attached great importance to international cooperation, issuing instructions on many occasions and frequently conducting diplomacy at the head-of-state level. Guided by the vision of a global community with a shared future, President Xi has personally worked to promote international cooperation on epidemic prevention and containment. These efforts, some of which are chronicled below, have helped to coalesce consensus and synergy around the world's fight against the novel coronavirus disease and injected confidence and positivity into the global response:
On January 20, at a critical point in China's domestic response to the novel coronavirus disease, President Xi issued important instructions for China to publish timely epidemic information and deepen international cooperation. On January 28, during a meeting with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, President Xi said that the Chinese government would keep the WHO updated, respond to concerns, and strengthen cooperation with the international community in an open, transparent, and responsible manner. At a February 23 meeting to plan for coordinated efforts to curb Covid-19 and promote economic and social development, President Xi said that China would stay in close communication with the WHO, share its experiences in fighting the virus with other countries, pursue closer international cooperation on antiviral drug and vaccine development, and give whatever help it could to countries and regions where the virus was spreading, thus living up to its role as a responsible major country. During a call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 12, Xi called on the international community to take urgent action to launch a coordinated global response against Covid-19 and marshal the collective strength needed to defeat the virus. At a meeting of the Political Bureau Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee on March 18, Xi spoke of the need to step up international cooperation on epidemic prevention and containment. China needed to work closely with the WHO, scale up efforts to analyze and forecast the global trajectory of the epidemic and, on that basis, refine the policy response to the risk of imported cases. Xi also stated that China would strengthen exchanges and cooperation with other countries and continue to provide any assistance it could. In a call on March 23, Xi expressed to French President Emmanuel Macron China's willingness to work with France to strengthen coordination and cooperation under international frameworks like the United Nations and the G20 to promote joint prevention and control of Covid-19, improve global health governance, help developing countries and other nations in need ramp up capacity building, and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the world economy. He said that we should let the bright rays of cooperation drive away the shadow of the virus.
At the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit on combating Covid-19 on March 26, President Xi put forward four proposals for stopping the spread of Covid-19 and stabilizing the world economy through stronger international cooperation: waging an all-out global war against Covid-19; taking collective international action on control and treatment; proactively supporting international organizations in playing their respective roles; and enhancing international macro-economic policy coordination. When President Xi spoke with US President Donald Trump on March 27, he expressed China's readiness to work with the United States to provide continued support to the WHO in fulfilling its important role, exchange more information and experience on controlling Covid-19, strengthen collaborative research, and improve global health governance. In a call with King Philippe of Belgium on April 2, President Xi said that as China worked to consolidate the achievements of its Covid-19 response, it was accelerating the resumption of work nationwide. China was tackling the difficulties involved in restoring and expanding production of medical and Covid-19 supplies as a matter of priority, he said, and while ensuring stringent supervision of quality, it was working to provide as much supplies and equipment as possible to the global fight against Covid-19. While speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 16, President Xi pointed out that politicizing and putting labels on the epidemic was counterproductive to international cooperation, and that China and Russia should work hand in hand to uphold global public health security. On May 7, during a call with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan, President Xi pointed out that the onus was on all countries to overcome differences and prejudice with solidarity and rationality.
On May 18, at the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly held via videoconference, President Xi announced a series of major measures that China would take to support the global fight against Covid-19. These included providing US$2 billion in international aid over two years to combat the impact of Covid-19, working with the UN to set up a global humanitarian response depot and hub in China, establishing a cooperation mechanism to pair Chinese hospitals with 30 hospitals in Africa, making any Covid-19 vaccine developed and deployed in China a global public good once available, and working with other G20 members to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the world's poorest countries.
During a call on June 3, President Xi expressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel China's desire to step up strategic cooperation with Germany and the EU, in order to uphold multilateralism, tackle global challenges, and provide certainty in an uncertain world. On a June 5 call with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Xi indicated that China and France should continue to support the international community in battling Covid-19 through joint efforts, and make a joint Chinese-French contribution to securing a final victory over the virus. On June 11, in a call with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Xi said that China would strengthen cooperation with Belarus and the wider international community to build a global community of health for all.
On June 7, China's State Council Information Office published a white paper titled Fighting Covid-19: China in Action. The white paper states, "China believes that all countries should make the choice that is right for the interests of all humanity and the wellbeing of our future generations. Upholding the vision of a global community of shared future, we should support each other and join hands to contain the spread of the virus, and protect the health and wellbeing of people across the globe."
I. The Chinese people believe in reciprocating acts of kindness and generosity.
When a Chinese medical team touched down in Cambodia on March 23, their arrival was broadcast live on the official Facebook page of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The seven-member team landed in the morning at Phnom Penh International Airport with 8.1 tons of medical supplies in tow.
The medical team was the first China had sent to a neighboring country since the outbreak of Covid-19. At the start of February, after deciding to change his plans to make a special trip to China, Prime Minister Hun Sen became the first foreign leader to visit China since the start of the epidemic. These two "firsts" were far from coincidental. They provide a vivid demonstration of the timely help and friendship that passes between the two nations in times of difficulty.
In the most demanding stage of China's fight against Covid-19, leaders of over 170 countries, heads of 50 international and regional organizations, and more than 300 foreign political parties and organizations sent messages of sympathy and support to China, while 77 countries and 12 international organizations made donations.
"The Chinese people know how to express gratitude and believe in reciprocating acts of kindness and generosity." China is very grateful for and deeply touched by the precious help and support it received from the international community. And when countries around the world faced their own grave struggle against Covid-19, it did not hesitate to extend a helping hand.
During the fight against Covid-19, President Xi has kept in close touch and communicated extensively with leaders from around the world by phone and written correspondence and through meetings and discussions. He has spoken to or held meetings with over 50 national leaders and heads of international organizations to express gratitude and support, call for solidarity and cooperation, and express China's warm and sincere friendship:
"China stands ready to provide testing kits and other urgently needed supplies to African countries." "China will continue to give whatever assistance it can to the ROK's efforts to combat Covid-19." "In the spirit of solidarity, China will send additional medical expert teams to Italy." "China stands ready to share epidemic information, experience in treatment and control, and outcomes of medical research with Egypt and to provide it with medical supplies." "China will provide all the assistance it can to Pakistan and do its part to stop the virus from spreading around the world." "The Chinese people understand the difficulties Indonesia is facing at present, and we will do all we can to help and support you." "China firmly supports the Czech Republic in its fight against Covid-19. We will share information and experience on Covid-19 control with the Czech side both bilaterally and through cooperative channels between China and Central and Eastern European countries."
Anti-epidemic supplies bound for China are loaded onto a Qatar Airways cargo plane at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, February 21, 2020. XINHUA / PHOTO BY NIKKU
As "Iron-clad friends," we stand together through thick and thin.
On March 21, less than a week after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic requested assistance from China, a Chinese medical expert team sent to Serbia arrived in Belgrade. The team was greeted at the airport by President Vucic, who "elbow bumped" each of the six members and kissed the Chinese national flag to express his deep gratitude. Written on the first shipment of medical supplies that arrived on the same flight were the words in Chinese and Serbian "Iron-clad friends who stand together through thick and thin." At the request of the Serbian government, the team extended its stay in Serbia. On April 30, the Serbian Ministry of Defense awarded its six members the country's most prestigious military honor.
The Chinese people would not forget the gesture of true friendship shown by Pakistan when it donated to China all the surgical masks in its reserves. On March 28, a Chinese medical team arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan. On April 24, China dispatched a military medical team to assist Pakistan's efforts to combat Covid-19.
When its good neighbor, friend, and partner Laos encountered difficulties in Covid-19 control, China was extremely concerned. In the most testing stage of China's response to Covid-19, Laos donated US$700,000 and sent several shipments of anti-epidemic supplies. Responding proactively to China's proposal, it spared no effort in organizing and hosting the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers' Meeting. On March 29, less than five days after Laos announced its first two confirmed cases of Covid-19, a team of Chinese medical experts arrived in the Lao capital Vientiane, along with medical equipment and supplies.
As the mountain range stretches before you and me, let us face trials and hardships together.
In the early days of the Covid-19 epidemic in China, Japan and the Republic of Korea were among the first to extend a helping hand. In the same vein, when the outbreaks in Japan and the ROK were at their most severe, China gave as much sincere help as possible. The Chinese government donated test reagents and urgently needed face masks, shared epidemic information and outbreak control experience, and helped Japan and the ROK source medical supplies in China. "Like the mountain range stretches before you and me, let us face trials and hardships together." "We aspire to the same ideal, and we are all citizens of the world." These messages of support written on assistance packages vividly illustrated the friendship and mutual support the three countries enjoy.
Receiving drips of water when in need, we shall return the kindness with a spring.
From the rice donated by Myanmar, the tea by Sri Lanka and the 30,000 sheep given by Mongolia, China will remember all the heart-warming assistance it has received from its friends.
When those friends found themselves in difficulty, China stepped up to help and return the warmth of friendship it had received. It sent a medical team to Myanmar, which included experts specializing in respiratory disease, infectious disease, intensive care, testing and traditional Chinese medicine. China also helped Myanmar set up a Covid-19 test laboratory. It sent numerous shipments of urgently needed humanitarian supplies, including medical masks, protective garments and test reagents, to Sri Lanka and Mongolia. Mongolia's Deputy Prime Minister, Ulziisaikhan Enkhtuvshin, pointed out that the close cooperation and mutual support between Mongolia and China and the supplies donated by the Chinese government had given Mongolia confidence to overcome the epidemic.
African countries, despite the hardships they faced, provided assistance to China and offered messages of support during the most demanding stage of our outbreak response. Since Covid-19 has begun spreading in Africa, China has demonstrated constant concern for its African brothers and sisters.
On April 6, epidemic control supplies donated by China to 18 African countries arrived in Ghana. The shipments included medical equipment and protective items urgently needed by African countries, such as medical masks, gloves, protective garments, and ventilators. Ten days later, two medical expert teams sent by the Chinese government touched down in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, becoming the "advance guard" of Chinese Covid-19 assistance to Africa.
Our bond of friendship, stronger than metal or stone, defies all geographical distance.
On March 12, a plane from Shanghai touched down in Rome with a team of nine volunteer experts from the Red Cross Society of China along with 31 tons of medical supplies. As the first international assistance group to arrive in Italy, the Chinese team was given a hero's welcome.
On March 18, medical supplies donated to France by the Chinese government arrived at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. On each of the neatly stacked boxes, images of Beijing's Temple of Heaven and the Eiffel Tower illuminated each other. In prominent type was an old Chinese saying, "Our bond of friendship, stronger than metal or stone, defies all geographical distance," along with the famous words of French author Victor Hugo "Unis nous vaincrons (United, we shall overcome)."
On the same day, Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, recorded videos in English, German, and French to thank China for its support for the EU during the fight against Covid-19.
A member of a team of military medical experts China sent to Myanmar to provide epidemic response assistance instructs a lab worker on the use of testing reagents at the No. 1 Defence Services General Hospital in Mingaladon, Yangon, April 30, 2020. XINHUA / PHOTO BY U AUNG
From Tokyo to Paris, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the remote parts of Africa, from the Balkans to the islands of the Indian Ocean, emergency supplies from China have landed in international airports across the globe, and Chinese medical workers have travelled to many parts of the world. Never in the history of the People's Republic has China carried out an emergency humanitarian operation on such a scale in such a short space of time.
It has provided both medical supplies and technical assistance. It has given help to the hardest-hit countries and to countries with weaker public health systems and disease prevention and control capacities. It has also supported international organizations such as the European Union, the African Union, and ASEAN.
China has donated a total of US$50 million to the WHO in two tranches. It has proactively assisted the WHO in purchasing personal protective equipment and creating a stockpile of supplies in China and helped it to raise funding in China for the Solidarity Response Fund.
By May 31, China had sent 29 medical expert teams to 27 countries, and had provided or was in the process of providing assistance to 150 countries and 4 international organizations in containing the pandemic.
At the same time, harnessing its production capacity strengths, China has proceeded with the orderly export of Covid-19 supplies, dispatching batch after batch of made-in-China goods across the globe as quickly as possible to effectively support the global fight against Covid-19. According to the white paper Fighting Covid-19: China in Action, China exported Covid-19 supplies to 200 countries between March 1 and May 31.
As former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin stated, China has assumed its role as a major country in the global fight against Covid-19 by fully engaging in international cooperation, providing medical supplies and assistance, and sharing its experience in combatting the virus.
II. Let the bright rays of cooperation drive away the shadow of the virus.
"China has been guided by the vision of a global community with a shared future throughout its fight against Covid-19. To contain the spread of the virus, it has acted in an open, transparent and responsible fashion, sharing information with the WHO and the international community in a timely manner, actively responding to various concerns, and stepping up international cooperation." During the struggle against the epidemic, President Xi has explained to the world.
China's position of acting with openness and transparency, engaging in cooperation and making joint efforts to fight Covid-19.
The following timetable clearly illustrates the open, transparent, and responsible stance that China has taken in international cooperation against the virus:
On January 3, China began regularly informing the WHO, relevant countries, and regional organizations, as well as its own regions of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, about the pneumonia outbreak and began informing the US of the pneumonia outbreak and response measures on a regular basis.
On January 10, the China Center for Disease Control shared with the WHO the specific primers and probes for detecting the coronavirus.
On January 12, China released the whole coronavirus genome sequence to the WHO, which was then published by the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data.
On January 20 and 21, the WHO carried out an on-site inspection in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
On January 21, the National Health Commission (NHC) began providing daily updates on cases on its official website and social media platform. Since February 3, the NHC has released this information simultaneously on its English-language website.
On January 27, a daily press conference of the State Council Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism began to be held.
From February 16 to 24, the WHO-China Joint Mission on Covid-19 conducted a nine-day field visit in China.
The following figures clearly illustrate the volume of information and experience China has shared with the international community and the level of research exchanges and cooperation it has engaged in:
By May 31, a total of 104 journals and 970 papers and reports were available on the Covid-19 Academic Research Communication Platform launched by China.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences has released the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Resource database, and created the Novel Coronavirus National Science and Technology Resource Service System and the Covid-19 Pneumonia Scientific Literature Sharing Platform. As of May 31, the three platforms had provided nearly 48 million download, browsing and retrieval services to more than 370,000 users worldwide.
China has kept the world updated on the vaccines it is developing in five categories. It has also carried out cooperation in scientific research with other countries, and with such organizations as the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization to accelerate the development of vaccines and clinical trials of medicines.
Chinese scientists, medical institutions, and disease control centers have published dozens of well-researched papers in some of the world's leading academic journals such as The Lancet, Science, Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine, in order to provide timely research results.
From the outset, China has acted in an open and cooperative fashion and has provided steadfast scientific support to the global fight against Covid-19.
Confronted with the separation enforced by the epidemic, China and the rest of the world have embarked on a new path of online exchange and cooperation. Online meetings to provide encouragement and share experience have helped to inject confidence and energy into China and the rest of the world's efforts to combat Covid-19.
On the evening of March 18 in Costa Rica, Costa Rican health experts held a videoconference with their Chinese counterparts. The President of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, Dr. Roman Macaya Hayes, opened the meeting with a string of questions for the Chinese experts.
On the same day, China also held a virtual Q&A session with African countries. Over the course of the three and a half hour meeting, Chinese experts patiently answered the questions of their African colleagues in great detail.
On March 24, medical experts from China and Latin American and Caribbean countries (LAC) held a video conference. Joining the meeting were over 200 officials and experts from all 25 LAC countries that have diplomatic ties with China, as well as from Nicaragua which has not yet established diplomatic relations with China. Also online were representatives from international and regional organizations.
On March 26, China held a video conference with countries in West Asia and North Africa. In attendance were health officials and experts from 18 countries. The meeting, originally scheduled for two and a half hours, was extended by an extra hour.
China has, without reservation, shared its experience on prevention, control, diagnosis, and treatment with the international community.
After fighting on the front lines of China's battle against the epidemic, Chinese medical experts did not stop to catch their breath. Instead, they travelled overseas to get directly involved in the global fight against Covid-19. Experts travelled to cities and villages and visited government agencies, hospitals, communities, and businesses to sincerely and selflessly share China's experience of combating Covid-19 and advise on the local epidemic response.
Iraq has not just been stricken by Covid-19 but also by conflict. A Chinese team travelled to the war-torn country to assist it in countering the virus. Despite the risks, it travelled extensively in the country, visiting a hospital in Baghdad designated for treating Covid-19 patients and assisting with the establishment of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) lab for testing. It also travelled to oil fields and power plants and visited the United Nations mission in Iraq.
Wang Anming (front center) and Ai Hexu (front left), members of a Chinese team of medical experts sent to support Iraq in Covid-19 prevention and control, provide training to Iraqi radiologists in a CT scan room built with Chinese assistance in Baghdad, April 25, 2020. XINHUA
The first medical team the Chinese government sent to Latin America went to Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan president, expressed his gratitude for China's help, stating that, because Venezuela drew on the strict quarantine and isolation measures adopted by China as soon as it started discovering Covid-19 cases, it was able to successfully cut off over 90% of the domestic viral transmission chains. This again illustrates the effectiveness of China's epidemic containment measures.
By the end of May, China had convened videoconferences with health experts in 170 countries, and it had given guidance to 56 foreign aid teams stationed abroad on carrying out epidemic prevention and control work in their host countries. These teams have held over 400 on-and offline training sessions for local residents and overseas Chinese.
III. Building a global community with a shared future is the right way forward for humanity.
An editorial in the French Newspaper Le Figaro titled "A Collective Test" stated that the world is experiencing an unprecedented war, in which the whole world is fighting against the same "intruder," and is undergoing a collective test.
It has not just been an invisible coronavirus which has put the international community to the test but also an invisible "political virus" and "information virus." Some have sought to politicize the epidemic, ascribe labels to the virus, denigrate the hard work of other countries, and incite and manufacture prejudice and racism.
At a press conference on May 24, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated, "Political manipulation will give the virus loopholes to exploit; a beggar-thy-neighbor approach will leave each of us more vulnerable; rejection of science will allow the virus to wreak greater havoc.... Covid-19 drives home once again that no country, no matter how strong it is, can insulate itself from a global challenge. When a disaster wreaks havoc, watching from an apparently safe distance and sitting idle will eventually backfire. Pointing fingers at others will only end up damaging one's own reputation. Self-conceit and blame-shifting, instead of helping any country solve its problems, will only hurt other countries' legitimate rights and interests."
The State Council white paper points out, "China has offered help to other countries to the best of its ability. It is doing so out of the kindness of its people, the empathy they have with people of other countries suffering from the pandemic, the humanitarian spirit of helping each other amid disasters, and its sense of responsibility as a major country. China is not exporting its model, nor is it pursuing selfish geopolitical interests."
Facing the challenge of this crisis, China has championed the idea of a global community with a shared future. It has stood firmly in favor of multilateralism, actively pursued international cooperation, and promoted improvements in global governance and joint efforts to improve this beautiful planet we all call home.
During the epidemic, President Xi Jinping has made sincere calls for international cooperation and collective efforts to build a global community with a shared future, which have served to strengthen confidence in the global fight against Covid-19 and inject it with greater momentum:
"Public health crises are a common challenge facing humanity, and unity and cooperation are our most potent weapon against them." "In responding to this global public health crisis, there is all the more urgency and importance to building a global community with a shared future." "Viruses do not respect borders, nor do epidemics discriminate between races. They are a common challenge for all of humanity. Only by generating synergy can the international community defeat them." "The coronavirus epidemic serves as yet another reminder that building a global community with a shared future is the only way forward for humanity." "Only if countries embrace cooperation that is founded on the thinking that we all share the same future can we solve the defining problems and challenges of our century and make strides toward building a global community with a shared future."
China's actions to advance the global fight against Covid-19 have been efficient and effective.
China has firmly supported the WHO in fulfilling its role, and called on the international community to increase funding and support for the WHO so as to mobilize resources on a global scale to counter Covid-19.
China has proposed that all countries engage in effectual collective epidemic prevention and control by taking appropriate, science-based, and coordinated measures under the WHO's guidance and coordination.
China has provided assistance to countries and regions with limited capacity for epidemic control. It has actively taken part in and implemented the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, announcing debt suspensions for 77 developing countries. On top of the medical assistance and supplies it has already donated to more than 50 African countries and the African Union and the 7 medical expert teams it has sent to the African continent, China is taking further steps to assist Africa's efforts against COVID-19. It is also supporting the UN's Covid-19 global humanitarian response plan. At the crucial moment in the world's fight against Covid-19, China has worked to safeguard the position and role of the UN and the WHO, protect the concept and principle of multilateralism, and maintain unity and cooperation among the international community.
China's proposal to advance the global fight against Covid-19 has charted a clear course for the world.
On March 26, the leaders of the G20 nations met for the first time via videoconference.
At the Extraordinary Leaders' Summit, in addition to the four proposals mentioned above, President Xi also proposed a host of other concrete measures. These included convening a G20 health ministers' meeting as quickly as possible, launching a G20 Covid-19 assistance initiative, holding discussions regarding the establishment of regional public health emergency liaison mechanisms, convening a high-level meeting on global public health security in due course, keeping global industrial and supply chains stable through joint efforts, and taking collective actions to cut tariffs, remove barriers, and facilitate the unfettered flow of trade. These proposals have provided a clear path and strong steps for the world to work collectively to curb the spread of Covid-19.
On May 18, in his address to the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly which convened via videoconference, President Xi put forward six proposals: the world should do everything it can for Covid-19 control and treatment; the World Health Organization should lead the global response against Covid-19; greater support should be given to Africa; global governance should be strengthened in the area of public health; the world must restore economic and social development; international cooperation must be enhanced.
UN Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock believes that President Xi has "demonstrated China's commitment to work with other nations to deal with this challenge" of the Covid-19 pandemic.
China's approach to advancing the global fight against Covid-19 is fitting for our times.
There are many shortcomings in global public health governance at present. The world still lacks a mechanism for collective prevention and control of contagious diseases, there is a dearth of resources for global public health, and the rise of de-globalization is only serving to further undermine the global public health system.
It was in a message of sympathy and support to French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the Covid-19 epidemic that Present Xi first proposed the idea of developing a global community of health for all. Since then, President Xi has mentioned this proposal on several occasions, including exchanges with foreign leaders and international meetings. This proposal, which was developed seven years after the vision of "a global community with a shared future" was first unveiled, enriches the meaning of "a global community with a shared future" for our generation and serves as a guide for us on how to build a sustainable and efficient global public health system that benefits all humanity.
The authors are from Xinhua News Agency.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 12, 2020)