International Department of the CPC Central Committee       BEIJING REVIEW
MARCH 2020       MONTHLY
Playing a Critical Role
 

Chinese Ambassador Xu Erwen (left 2) and Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros (right 2) pose with medical supplies from China in Zagreb, Croatia, on April 12. A cargo aircraft from Shanghai carrying about 60 tons of medical supplies, including 3.7 tons donated by the Chinese Government to Croatia, landed at the Franjo Tudman International Airport on April 12 (XINHUA)

George N. Tzogopoulos 

Director of the EU-China Program at the Centre International de Formation Européenne 

When the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emerged in the city of Wuhan, China took the unprecedented measure of locking it down. The efficiency of policies always depends on results. A few weeks after the outbreak, difficult decisions seem to be vindicated. Despite precaution and systematic controls that are still needed, life is gradually returning to normal. New cases are mostly imported ones, requiring airport checks and quarantine to prevent another contagion. The Guardian acknowledged China's success by calling Wuhan's lockdown strategy "effective". And Time magazine asserted that "China's draconian lockdown [is] getting credit for slowing coronavirus." 

An important part of China's strategy was to closely collaborate with the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization's Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has praised the country's efforts to contain the virus.

While there is much discussion at present about COVID-19 by experts and non-experts, Chinese biologists and doctors--at the beginning--had to fight against an unknown virus to save lives while protecting themselves. As Chinese President Xi Jinping said during the Group of 20 (G20) leaders' virtual meeting on March 26, the COVID-19 outbreak "caught us all by surprise." Of course, some of the criticism is fair. The Chinese Government has acknowledged mistakes. And it has expressed gratitude to countries which immediately offered humanitarian assistance. But if there is one thing that it could barely accept, it is social stigma. Several examples can be found during the pandemic that have naturally caused anger in Beijing. The expression "Chinese virus" used by U.S. President Donald Trump is obviously the most notable one.

WHO has published a guide to prevent and address social stigma. In the context of health, it refers to the negative association between a person or group of people who share certain characteristics and a specific disease. As COVID-19 is not fully understood by most people, stereotypes tend to become a recurrent feature and are often associated with political games and the favorite theme of the Western discourse: China's development. But if we now look back at the beginning of January, we can see that the Chinese battle against COVID-19 bought time for other countries that was not necessarily harnessed.

From the very beginning, neutral observers have not joined the anti-China trend in the West but have warned that COVID-19 respects no borders. The G20 summit statement reflects this reality, but it came at a late stage. It is not the appropriate time to extensively comment on the inertia of the U.S. administration and that of other governments, in Europe and elsewhere, though.

What currently matters more is tangible action to end this nightmare. China is playing a critical role in that regard. It is continuously providing medical help to countries in need. China-Italy relations, for instance, are reaching new heights in difficult times. Italian Permanent Representative to the EU Maurizio Massari wrote in his article for Politico that only China has responded bilaterally. This is also the case for China-Spain friendship. Pictures and videos of Chinese airplanes delivering medical supplies across the globe are being published almost daily.

Yet, it is not surprising that China's critics remain suspicious. Some talk about the Communist Party of China's publicity efforts. Others prefer to link the ongoing proactive stance of Beijing to its alleged responsibility for the outbreak of COVID-19. Nonetheless, countries and people suffering from the virus are full of appreciation. This is China’s biggest reward and investment for the future.

In his speech at the G20 leaders' meeting, Xi reiterated China's determination to share good practices, conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines and provide assistance. International cooperation and greater synergies are required, he repeated.

When Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1929, he could not rely on the experience of Chinese, Russian and U.S. researchers in using mold for its antibiotic activity. In the 21st century, where digital, technological and other unprecedented means are available, opportunities for collaboration should not be missed because of political myopia and ideological bias.

The Health Silk Road can join hands with international organizations including WHO, apply the principle of multilateralism, pass by safe stops such as institutes named after Pasteur in France, Koch in Germany, Lister in the UK, John Hopkins in the U.S., Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil or Haffkine in India and reach new destinations across the globe. History will judge the role of leadership. And then there will be many negative things to be remembered like rise in social stigma, but only one positive thing: contribution to public good.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro meets with Chinese medical experts at the presidential palace on April 8 (XINHUA)

Rick Dunham

Co-Director of the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University

There’s a debate in the United States. Many conservative lawmakers have been using that term call it Chinese flu, be- cause that means that Donald Trump will not be held responsible. I don’t think that there are policies of major news organi- zations in the United States to use the name. But when it happens, it’s wrong.

A lot of the western media coverage focused on the lack of Information at the beginning and on social media contro- versies rather than the core issue itself.

I think that from the moment that the Chinese Government realized the seriousness of the disease, it started releasing information and then tried to tweak the information so that the methodology was generally considered acceptable and not political.

The transparency level, the number of new cases, the number of people who  died, the number of people who have recovered, I think having reliable, con- sistent information is crucial. I think the united states could learn a lesson from the way the Chinese Government has communicated, clearly with one voice.

I think the tonality has changed al- ready. I have seen stories in American media saying that there are lessons that we have learned from China that can be applied to this. I think people are learning best practices from what happened in China, medically health, the importance of quickly creating health centers, hospi- tals.

The coronavirus is bringing out the best and the worst in people around the world. I mean the enemy is the virus... We’re all citizens of the world as well as citizens of our own countries.

Members of the Chinese medical team board a plane to return home after an aid mission in Venezuela in Caracas, on April 11 (XINHUA)

Mario Cavolo 

CEO M Comm Group, media com- mentator

I thought about H1N1 outbreak in 2009. You tell me, was it called the America virus? In fact, there were even a few earlier cases, actually, just before in Mexico. Was it called the Mexico virus? But this isn’t the question of just the name. It’s the derogatory intention be- hind the name.

What we find mostly in social media, we find more younger generation of peo- ple there expressing their voices, what I really like and what I think is fantastic.

Every person should be proud of where they live and proud of the country that they live in. Look, how the Chinese came together and that’s all over the na- tional media. When you stop demonizing any country and just talk about it from a point of common sense, majority of Chinese citizens think we have a sense of civic duty.

There’s a very specific and intentional and coordinated cold war, anti-China coordinated campaign. It’s the western version, the United States version of pro- paganda.

I really appreciate the way that China has exceeded the reporting in terms of transparency versus the reality of being accused that they’re not being transpar- ent. First of all, it publicly announced the situation in Wuhan is very bad. Did they hide this? No.

Doctors came rushing by the thou- sands to wuhan to help, an incredible show of solidarity and unity in such an emergency. And this is where we see the advantages of an author or authoritarian central planning type government. When they say something needs to be done, it can be done quickly.

We can work together as much as we need to go forward in a globalized world. The requirement is maturity and wisdom to tolerate certain differences that are never gonna change.

We can work together as much as we need to go forward in a globalized world. The requirement is maturity and wisdom to tolerate certain differences that are never gonna change.

 

Samantha Bee

Television host, political commentator

Tying coronavirus to China and Chinese people isn’t just a racist dog whistle. It is a whole racist orchestra.

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