China sees rising status, image with virus fight

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/20 22:43:40

Chinese aid pours in to Italy, while US distances itself from EU

China dispatches a team of nine medical experts to Italy, on Thursday, to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, along with 31 tons of medical supplies, including ICU ward equipment, protectiveoutfits, and antiviral drugs. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Geographic boundaries between China and European countries have blurred in the fight against the deadly coronavirus as China has actively shared its experiences with all major countries in Europe on curbing the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, China's active involvement in Europe and its rising influence and positive image in the region have, not surprisingly, aroused jealousy and concerns from the US and certain people in the West.  

On Thursday, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Health Commission (NHC) held a video conference on pandemic prevention and control, in which China discussed its own experience to government officials and medical experts from 18 European countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. 

China previously held a video conference with Central and Eastern European Countries on COVID-19, which include 17 CEECs.

When the US imposed travel bans on 27 European countries in a bid to distance itself from those countries fighting the arduous battle against the outbreak, a move dismaying many of its European allies, China's humanitarian move has won thanks from both local citizens and foreign governments. 

Meanwhile, some sour-graping US media outlets claimed that China is trying to draw Europe over to spar with the US. Foreign experts told the Global Times that China's aid to Europe is an example of people-to-people exchanges which could become a norm in future international relations, and "the change of the US status and its image in Europe is welcome as they have already deteriorated." 

Predrag Markovic, director of the Institute for Contemporary History in Serbia and vice president of the Socialist Party of Serbia, told the Global Times that it's "pure envy" to attack China's offer to help as so-called "political" and "propaganda" purposes.

"Why aren't [US President Donald] Trump and [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson ready to do similar 'propagandist work?' Because they are only 'spin doctors,'" he said.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Centre for European Union Studies at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times, "Some claim China is engaged in a PR show when the country provides support to European countries. But the truth is China truly upholds the concept of a community of shared future for mankind." 

"After the pandemic, there will be a new chance for the world to evaluate China's global status, which will be widely recognized and accepted," Wang said.

Chinese medical supplies for Belgium are unloaded at the Liege Airport in Liege, Belgium, on March 16, 2020. Three hundred thousand face masks donated by Chinese charities arrived in Liege, Belgium, on Monday, in an effort to help the European country fight the spread of the COVID-19. (Xinhua/Zhang Cheng)

Comrades and brethren

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Europe have maintained close communication and cooperation. The NHC and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention set up a joint expert team with the European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to respond to the epidemic.

So far, the team has held three telephone conferences, and experts exchanged in-depth views on the latest developments of the epidemic in European countries and China, as well as prevention and control measures, diagnosis and screening.

Markovic told the Global Times that "China has been sending constructors all over the world for years. This benevolent giant has been doing so without any political conditions. Today, China is ready to share its wisdom and to send medical personal like white angels of the 21st century. It opens its heart and mind." 

"All humanity should be grateful to China. We in Serbia are very proud to be in such a good relationship with our Chinese comrades and brethren," Markovic said.

China has sent medical supplies to Serbia, and more assistance is underway. 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić previously blasted the EU for refusing to export medical equipment, saying European solidarity was a "fairy tale."

Wang Yiwei said these European countries can't count on the US or the EU to provide them aid, so China sends out humanitarian support to relevant countries at their request. "When international organizations can't provide help, China could offer more possibilities to help handle the issue, which could not be interpreted as taking over the US influence on the continent."

The US Air Force quietly flew 500,000 swabs for COVID-19 testing kits from Italy to Memphis, Tennessee recently, according to media reports, which was in contrast with China, which continued sending medical teams and supplies to Italy.

Fabio Massimo Parenti, a professor at the International Institute Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence, told the Global Times that "Chinese assistance [in Italy] is becoming astonishing and amazing: State aid, equipment and doctors, private donations by Chinese communities in Italy, private donations by private firms."

"Unfortunately, we are not experiencing anything similar with European neighbors. Few words, no action," he said.      

Parenti said some detractors of China's policy abroad are always alive. "Someone tried to speculate about the Chinese aid, but they do not have a basis. They tried to talk about China's propaganda, saying that they are not donations, but they are wrong," he said.

Obviously, there are multiple reasons behind international cooperation. In this case, friendly diplomacy, economic interests and humanity play a role, he added.

Italy also offered great assistance to China in the 1980s and in 2008 after the Wenchuan earthquake in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Parenti noted that China's help can be viewed as "a manifestation of the BRI spirit — inclusive, cooperative, based on supporting mutual interests."

"We will welcome the change of the US status and its image in Europe, which are not so good. China and Italy can pave the way for a new path of international cooperation," he said.

Rising recognition 

Relations between China and the EU encountered some turbulence last year especially when the "EU-China - A strategic outlook" was released in March 2019, which for the first time formally identified China as an economic "systemic rival" and a "strategic competitor." The US is trying every means to persuade European countries to isolate China.

But the pandemic allowed many people in the West realize the importance of global cooperation, and they gave high recognition to the genuine help from China, analysts said.

Björn Nashan, Professor of Surgery and Director of the Clinic of Hepato-pancreatico-biliary Surgery and Transplantation in Germany, told the Global Times that the majority of Europeans would agree China has greatly helped Europe fight the virus. 

"All the people I know and speak with think that China did a great job, but our media are perceived as hypocrites," said Nashan.

Carlos Sentís, an expert on West-China relations and founder of the World Impact Alliance, told the Global Times that he "believes the consequence of this pandemic is going to be positive to fight populism and the ideas behind trade wars and closing borders." 

"I don't think this crisis has increased populism, but racist sentiment has been more clearly exposed. We have experienced a clear rise in the populist sentiment in the past years, an ongoing trend that may change trajectory with the global pandemic," he said.

"With the need to close borders between regions and countries, it is clearer than ever that we live in a globalized world where we need each other and want to be able to move freely, both for personal or professional reasons," Sentís said, noting that the disruption shows that nothing works if we cannot collaborate. 

He said that it is a global crisis and we need, more than ever, collaboration between all countries. "China has dealt with this epidemic longer, and it has been successful in combating it, so we shall foster as much exchange and collaboration as possible to mitigate its effects." 

Aside from Europe, China has held several video meetings with African countries, Japan and South Korea to brief them on China's experience in battling the virus. It also plans to offer more help to African countries, where medical systems and supplies are inadequate. 

A Chinese CDC doctor in Italy told the Global Times that Chinese medical staff received great kindness from local citizens and many people gave them a thumbs-up in the streets. "We are here to help people, not for a political show. Our deeds are the best response to the smearing from the US," he said.


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