Accusations and insults won’t distract China from coronavirus fight: experts

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/2 21:18:40

A doctor demonstrates how to wear mask correctly at Nanchang West Railway Station in Nanchang, east China's Jiangxi Province, Jan. 29, 2020. Various measures are taken across China to combat the novel coronavirus. (Xinhua/Hu Chenhuan)

Editor's Note: 

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has clearly been pinned under the spotlight around the world. Some Western media's reports, however, have distracted vigilance over the dangers of the outbreak by hyping accusation against China's system as well as racism against Chinese people. What are the lessons China has to learn from this epidemic? What role does international cooperation play in epidemic prevention and control? To answer these questions, Chen Dongxiao (Chen), president of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS) and Zhang Haibing (Zhang), director of SIIS's Institute of Global Governance, shared their insights in a written interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Li Aixin, following the Friday publication of their report titled "Coronavirus Battle in China: Process and Prospect." 

GT: You said in your report that "there is not a general shortage of food or other life necessities… Food supplies and basic social services are fully ensured" in Wuhan. However, there are also media reports talking about shortage of medical supplies in frontline hospitals. What are the main reasons that have led to the phenomenon? What are the lessons China has to learn from the epidemic?

Chen: It is a fact that Wuhan has gained nationwide support, and its basic services have been guaranteed, while some frontline hospitals are indeed running out of medical supplies. 

The key issue now is whether the shortage is becoming increasingly severe or it is being resolved. Obviously, the problems are attracting growing attention and being addressed. 

The city of Wuhan, with a population of over 10 million, was quickly shifted from a state of normalcy to an emergency one. This is unprecedented and it is inevitable some obstacles and difficulties will be encountered. 

Shortcomings have been exposed but have gained widespread attention and are being addressed. For instance, there is insufficient strategic reserve for epidemic outbreaks, some officials are incapable of dealing with emergencies, and the public has insufficient scientific knowledge. This is a huge test of both the Chinese government and its social mobilization. Yet the capability of the system to respond to the emergency is being rapidly activated.

Hubei Province, especially its capital Wuhan, is the major epidemic-infected areas. The braking and transition of their original social and economic operation mechanism is a huge test for the Chinese central government and local governments at various levels. It will require policy adjustments and will test the responsibility and skills of government officials. We have seen many responsible and selfless officials and members of the public who are devoted to fighting the novel coronavirus, while there are also a few incompetent and timid officials. Local governments have promptly dismissed and replaced these incompetent officials, which has won the support of the public.

GT: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus infection cases is still significantly increasing every day, especially in Wuhan. How severe do you think the current epidemic is? People will soon return to work after the Spring Festival holidays. What impact will this upcoming movement of people have on the epidemic?

Chen: The backflow of population is indeed the focal point of the next phase in curbing the epidemic, but the experience accumulated by each municipal and provincial government in the previous stage is now playing a role. The intensity and effectiveness of epidemic prevention and control will only become stronger. 

Meanwhile, the floating population has an obligation to protect themselves. The publicity and education of preventing and controlling the novel coronavirus will definitely affect everyone's behavior. It is believed that through joint efforts, we will eventually defeat the virus and restore our life and production to normalcy. 

As mentioned earlier, the current epidemic situation is still in the stage of development and change. The great flow of people after the Spring Festival holidays will indeed put tremendous pressure on the prevention and control of the epidemic, but local governments have made sophisticated arrangements and adopted effective measures.

 China is such a vast country with such a large population and it is extremely difficult to ensure every single person is doing his duty well. Thus, a gridded social management system is necessary. Regulators, no matter at which level, must adhere to their duty. It is time for all Chinese people to be of one heart and one mind. Difficulties do exist, but we must have confidence.

GT: While China confronts the novel coronavirus outbreak, some Western media, Western elites and politicians tend to hype discrimination against Chinese people because of the virus. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross cares more about whether the coronavirus outbreak could help bring jobs back to the US. Some Western media even pointed their fingers at the Chinese system for the spread of the epidemic. What's your take on the phenomenon and remarks in the West?

Zhang: According to the latest statement issued by the WHO regarding the coronavirus, the organization said it welcomed "leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of Chinese government, their commitment to transparency, and the efforts made to investigate and contain the current outbreak." This showed WHO's support and confidence in China's relevant efforts. 

Some authoritative medical experts in US and Western media have different opinions on China's strong measures to contain the epidemic. This is quite normal. In the end, the final effect of the measures will have the final say. For the moment, there is no comparable cases in history and around the globe. 

Some forces are hyping up racism, Sinophobia and even anti-Communism. Their intention is not at all to fight the epidemic. However, the surge of the novel coronavirus is not only a matter for China, but a matter for people around the world. That's why Director-General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus articulately said, "This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma." When it comes to global epidemics, how to cope with them is the top priority. 

In the face of various comments from Western media, there is no need to overreact. China's actions and their effects will be the best counter. From the perspective of the current situation, China will be able to crack down on the novel coronavirus epidemic. 

GT: Your report appeals for joint actions by the international community. How do you evaluate the current global attitude and actions in response to the epidemic outbreak in China? What role does international cooperation play in epidemic prevention and control?

Zhang: Three initiatives focus on global concerns. 

Media is the main platform for information transmitting. Biased and incomplete reports can not only create confusion, they also provide no help in tackling the epidemic. In the end, false information could become another virus - an information virus. 

At present, some non-mainstream media in certain countries are misrepresenting the epidemic and misunderstanding the Chinese people. At this point, objective and authentic reports are needed. International cooperation should be encouraged so as to lessen misunderstandings and contradictions. Think tanks have the responsibility to objectively analyze facts and guide the public to think rationally. 

Some countries have carried out restrictive measures such as travel bans on Chinese citizens. It is understandable as the moves help safeguard their own people's health and safety. Yet in the meantime, joint efforts from countries all over the world are necessary to overcome the epidemic. For instance, new discoveries of novel viruses by the international medical community can help promote early prevention of potential epidemics. 

International cooperation is based on sincerity, and true friendship stands out in difficult times. China needs the help and support of all countries around the globe. Assisting China will also help the world tackle the crisis and will contribute to global governance.

A community with a shared future for mankind means that all human beings have a common home which is based on interdependence, mutual respect, coexistence and co-prosperity. When countries around the world, including the US, faced the 9/11 attacks and some major natural disasters such as hurricanes, the Chinese government and a large number of Chinese people supported them both materially and spiritually. On social media platforms, many righteous Americans have also expressed their support for the Chinese people. Previously, China had provided technical, financial, and personnel support to fight Ebola, without a flinch or discrimination.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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