SE Asia restrains on virus measures

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/4 21:43:03

West's ideology won't sway Beijing's neighbors: analyst

Photo: Xinhua

Southeast Asian countries have taken a more restrained and reasonable approach toward the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China, in stark contrast to some Western countries that might have been motivated by ideological bias.

Ill-intentioned goals of some in the West to sway the Southeast Asian countries will be futile, Chinese analysts said.

Several countries in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia have imposed some restrictions on travel in and out of China, including flight bans and visa restrictions after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak as a public health emergency of global concern.

While the WHO clearly stated that it does not recommend limiting trade with and travel to China, these countries' measures can be understandable given their exposure to the virus due to a large number of Chinese tourists, said Zhuang Guotu, director of Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University.

"Overall, the response from Southeast Asian countries has been normal and reasonable," Zhuang told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that some countries have shown support in China's effort to control the epidemic.

Some leaders of Southeast Asian countries have publicly declared their support and confidence in China's ability to combat the virus. 

At a speech on Saturday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that his country has confidence and China and other countries will work together to win the battle and harshly criticized rising anti-China or anti-Chinese sentiment in the wake of the epidemic.

"That is foolish and illogical," he said, according to the Straits Times. "Even though the virus started in Wuhan, it doesn't respect nationality or race. It does not check your passport before it goes into your body. Anybody can be infected."

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday also blasted anti-Chinese xenophobia due to the epidemic. 

"China has been kind to us, we can only also show the same favor to them. Stop this xenophobia thing," Duterte said, according to the Japan Times.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen even plans to visit Wuhan during his visit to China after his trip to South Korea, as long as the plan is permitted by the Chinese side, a Cambodian diplomat who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Xu Liping, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times that Hun Sen's requirement for visiting Wuhan might not be realized at present due to the serious situation, "but his friendly and positive attitude should be treasured."

"Most Southeast Asian countries have expressed sympathy for China… while some countries such as the US and Australia evacuated their citizens from Wuhan and stopped flights," Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The US was the first to ban foreign nationals, not just Chinese citizens, from entering its borders and the first to evacuate its diplomats from China, while offering no sustentative support for China, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday. Australia followed suit.

Despite their governments' response, many in the US and Australia have offered medical and other supplies to China, Gu noted.

However, some US officials appear to have taken advantage of the epidemic in their smear campaign against China, with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggesting that the outbreak will bring jobs back to the US and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling the Communist Party of China a central threat. 

What's worse is that some Western officials might be trying to sway other countries, particularly China's neighbors, to isolate China under the guise of the epidemic, Zhuang said. 

"I don't think such efforts to pit countries against China will succeed," he said.

However, in what appears to be a sign of a cautious approach, many embassies of Southeast Asian countries in Beijing on Tuesday declined or delayed comment, though some expressed support.

Despite the example set by the US government's overreactions, many countries in Asia and beyond have taken a more supportive approach toward the epidemic. 

Ambassadors of Nepal, Greece and Bulgaria to China told the Global Times on Monday that their countries have not restricted Chinese nationals from visiting.

"Bulgaria is not planning to restrict the entry of Chinese nationals," Bulgarian Ambassador Grigor Porozhanov told the Global Times on Tuesday, but said Chinese visitors will be subject to medical check-ups. 

"We highly appreciate the Chinese government's relentless efforts to battle the novel coronavirus and have full confidence in China's ability to control the viral disease," Porozhanov said.

Japan has also won praises from Chinese people for its support for China's effort to contain the virus. Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that Japan's government and society have offered much sympathy, understanding and support for China.  

"At a difficult moment in fighting the epidemic, we sincerely thank and will remember forever the sympathy, understanding and support offered by other countries and people," Hua said at an online press briefing.


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