Our global response to COVID-19

By Terry Branstad Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/8 22:48:40

Terry Branstad

As the US Ambassador to China, my foremost duty is to help ensure the safety and well-being of Americans in China, and to help the United States and China work together to address and solve bilateral and global challenges. Since the outbreak of this pandemic, US and Chinese efforts have saved many lives. 

Now more than ever, our two countries must continue to cooperate and find collaborative solutions to this global public health crisis. Working together, we will save many more lives, within our own borders and around the world.

US-China medical collaboration has a long history. For more than 100 years, the American people - through government, the private sector, and non-profit entities - have worked to combat infectious diseases across the world. This includes decades of cooperation between US and Chinese medical researchers, which has contributed dramatically to the improved health conditions of ordinary Chinese citizens. China has benefited from American medical funding and expertise, advancing both the Chinese medical system and global pandemic readiness. 

The need for larger bilateral cooperation remains, too, and directly impacts the lives of our two countries' peoples. When Wuhan instituted emergency lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, hundreds of American citizens living in the region sought to return home to the United States. 

Our evacuation team worked closely with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C, and with local Chinese officials in Wuhan to ensure our pilots received their visas in a timely manner and that US citizens were able to safely bypass checkpoints on their way to the airport. This close coordination ensured 846 US citizens and their family members could travel back to safety in the United States. 

The planes that flew to China to take evacuees back to the United States did not arrive in Wuhan empty. Their cargo bays held nearly 18 tons of medical equipment - donations from United States for the people of China. By the end of February, US companies and private charitable organizations donated upwards of $200 million in needed personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfectant and cleaning supplies, pharmaceuticals, and cash to help Chinese doctors and nurses safely treat those suffering from this terrible virus.

A few months later, we find our roles are reversed - China is now providing PPE for the US medical system, including donations from private Chinese entities. The United States has greatly appreciated the many contributions of PPE and medical supplies by Chinese companies and other organizations. These contributions have been both commercial exports and donations, both large and small, both immediate and long-term. But the American people are tremendously grateful for the support from the Chinese people, and our Mission has been touched by the many heartfelt offers to assist us in our time of need. 

US and Chinese officials continue to collaborate to fight the spread of the virus, including at the highest levels. President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping spoke several weeks ago and agreed to cooperate on COVID-19. I also recently spoke with Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang about our countries' joint efforts to combat COVID-19 and relayed my appreciation for Chinese efforts to assist our government in the export of needed medical supplies to the United States. US diplomats, businesspeople, and philanthropists are also working daily with their Chinese counterparts to facilitate the transfer of goods and expertise between our two countries to optimize our global response. Together, we are saving lives every day. 

As we move forward, we must proceed in a transparent, timely, and open manner, for the good of all people around the world. If we do so, I trust that we will ultimately succeed in beating COVID-19. In my decades of public service in the United States and China, there is one thing I have learned: "Tough times never last, but tough people do." 

The author is US Ambassador to China. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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