China’s frontline of a war against COVID-19 protects everyone else
Published: Jan 16, 2022 07:01 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

I have thought a lot recently about war - its misery, its sacrifice, its purpose. I remember about two years earlier when the Chinese top leader declared a "people's war" against the COVID-19 and thought to myself, "after forty years of rising into prosperity without ever being involved in a war, is China going to finally 'start one'?" Well, of course, that wasn't the message at all. The world soon discovered the mental state of focus and action of China on the frontline and what it was capable of to stop the enemy we all know as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We can look back at the beginning of the pandemic and remember what should not be forgotten; a frontline of over 30,000 healthcare workers from all over the country. They made their way at high personal risk to the city of Wuhan where a severe outbreak was reported in late December, 2019. Medical doctors were finally taking the time to identify a previously unknown virus causing severe symptoms. As we now know, thanks to the extensive research done these past two years by organizations like the National Institutes of Health, this nasty virus was already present in the US before mid-December in 2019, a month earlier than the first case officially reported in the country.

As quickly as they could identify this unknown virus and its characteristics, Chinese scientists were communicating daily with scientists from the world's major countries, sharing information as quickly as it could be confirmed and identified. Yet, what thanks did China receive for those scientists being the first to identify the problem, for sharing the virus genome with the international scientific community and for sending over 30,000 healthcare workers to create a massive frontline of protection for the rest of the world? There were no thanks at all and a buffer window of time for the rest of the world to prepare itself was squandered by the Western world's leaders, acting as no more than hollow politicians more concerned with economics and elections than people's lives. 

Two years onward, nothing much has changed with regard to how maligned politicians in the West continue to spew lies about China's COVID-19 response, most recently with respect to several Omicron outbreaks which have finally arrived on the mainland. The Chinese capital Beijing on Saturday reported its first locally transmitted infection of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant. The recent  outbreak in Xi'an, the most serious one since Wuhan's,  has required a mighty city-wide lockdown and once again, I said to myself, "There is the frontline in the war. The people of that city are being inconvenienced. Yes, they are! They are definitely the frontline, facing a degree of inconvenience and sacrifice." But why and how important is such an approach as we are all witnessing in China's COVID-19 prevention policy? Is it not a city of 13 million acting as a frontline to protect the other 1.4 billion people in the rest of the country? Isn't that why, over the past two years, while virtually the entire world has been fully exposed to the virus, my family and everyone I know in China has been able to go about our daily lives? Isn't that a gift of immense freedom to our daily lives which are the envy of households living in fear in most other countries all across the world? 

I must ask myself how badly I feel about the few hundreds of people in Xi'an who have felt their lives substantially inconvenienced. If it were Shenyang, my wife's hometown where we live, then it would be all of us acting as the frontline, wouldn't it? Would I wish we could all avoid it? Of course. But if fate comes and stands directly in front of any person on earth, it cannot be avoided. Today, if life brings us an extra measure of loss, inconvenience, pain and suffering, we must bear it. Today, if life brings us an extra measure of goodness, sweetness, love, riches and kindness, we also accept it and hopefully, we do so with humility, knowing that others have sacrificed throughout the history of the world in order for us to have the blessings we have today. 

Thus, China's COVID-19 response shows us the duality of life as modern men face a modern-day pandemic; it includes on one side the painful realities we face while also showing us how China has in fact, been a blessing to the world, showing the world the greatest model of effective governance along with the broad cooperation and satisfaction of its citizens. That is why I don't hesitate for a moment when I tell people that China is now the largest, safest, most stable, successful and capable country on the planet. It's not China's fault that other countries are not capable of the same, is it?  

The author is a senior fellow with the Center for China & Globalization. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn