Fighting COVID-19 requires solidarity rather than slanders
By H.E. Hua Ning, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan
On April 4, Mr. Juma Peter wrote an article on the Dawn newspaper, claiming that China is the birthplace of the virus, and may even "produce" the virus. He recriminated China of "concealing information" and allowing the virus to spread around the world for "three months" while questioning China's aid to Africa. His language is ambiguous, but the "message" he intended to convey is clear. We are neither unfamiliar with the main point of this article, nor do we feel unexpected about it. The article is a mixture of Western recipe with some local spices. While the international community is going all out in fighting a war against the pandemic, we need to be vigilant against such unproved allegations and irresponsible remarks. They will not kill the virus but harm the unity. Therefore I will try to answer some "questions" mentioned by the author.
Firstly, regarding the birthplace of COVID-19. The birthplace tracing of any virus is a serious issue of science. Its purpose is not to convict a country or region, but to facilitate the global campaign on epidemics. We are not medical professionals, so we should listen to the judgments of professionals based on science and research. The enemy facing the world is called "Novel Coronavirus" (COVID-19), officially named by WHO. Linking the virus to any specific countries, regions, ethnics is improper and immoral, there are always ugly political calculations behind such despicable stigmatization. Theoretically, a virus may erupt in any country. Various epidemic situations have occurred in different countries and regions in human history, some of them still threaten public health. Although Wuhan was the first place to publicly report on COVID-19, it does not indicate that the origin of the virus is in China. Recently, experts from the US, Italy, the UK, Australia and many other countries, including the "Nature Medicine" magazine published relevant papers, showing that the source of COVID-19 is inconclusive. Chinese people are also victims of the virus. We wonder what scientific evidence is the author's hastily reached conclusion based. Regardless of its origins, it is a common enemy of mankind. In 2014, as Ebola outbreak erupted in some Western African countries, China was the first country to provide large-scale emergency assistance worth over US $ 100 million to those affected African countries. We dispatched more than 1,000 medical workers, trained 13,000 local medical staff, making a significant contribution to the final victory over the Ebola epidemic.
Secondly, regarding the false claim of "China concealing information". We heard some similar accusations in the world, most of them came from a handful politicians rather than professionals. Some people are accustomed to shifting blames on and finding scapegoats in others when they encounter problems. Political spat and pointing fingers at others is much cheaper and easier than assuming the great responsibility of fighting the epidemic. The fact is that as early as December 27, 2019, the relevant hospital in Hubei Province had reported three suspicious cases. On January 3, 2020, China began to inform the WHO and countries around the world in a timely and responsible manner. On Jan. 8, the pathogen of the epidemic was preliminarily determined. On Jan.11, China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention shared the entire gene sequences of five new coronaviruses with the world, providing key information for the global response to the outbreak. On 23 January, with spread of the epidemic, China made major sacrifice by closing the outbound passage of Wuhan city, a megacity of 13 million people(equivalent to the population of South Sudan) . China reports patient cases nationwide on a daily basis, with single digit accuracy. The speed, intensity, effectiveness and transparency of the epidemic prevention and control in China are unprecedented.
The WHO pointed out that the measures taken by China are decisive, timely, and powerful, which have protected the lives and health of the Chinese people to the greatest extent, wining a valuable window for the rest of world. The "Science" magazine published a joint report of scientific researchers from the UK, the US and other countries, saying that measures adopted by China have successfully broken the virus transmission chain, and have gained valuable time for other countries to take measures. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, pointed out that "the message from China was absolutely clear, and then we wasted February when we could have acted." Tom Frieden, Former Director of the US CDC, said that the response taken by China are extraordinary, and they have bought time for other countries. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that those who think China should have told the US about the COVID-19 pandemic 3-4 months in advance are not true to facts, as it means that China would have to do it as early as September 2019. China have shared with the international community the experience it have gained from fighting the epidemic, hoping that other countries affected by the epidemic can seize the window of opportunity, do better than China, and save more lives. To date, humans still have very limited knowledge of COVID-19, and it will take hard work to overcome it. The author's assertion that the war against the virus will be won easily as long as several major countries could join forces to battle at early stage is irrational. I am curious on the claim that China is delaying the world by three months, did the author heard of something absurd through the grapevine or he adopted an extremely unusual calculation method?
Thirdly, regarding China's aid to Africa in the fight against COVID-19.
We will never forget the political and in-kind support provided by the international community including African countries to China at the peak of the epidemic. "You throw a peach to me, and I give you a white jade in return for friendship. " While our own wounds are still bleeding, we have stood up to lend a helping hand to the countries affected by the epidemic. As of March 31, the Chinese government has provided assistance to over 120 countries and 4 international organizations. The Chinese government also donated US $ 20 million to WHO for international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19. Chinese enterprises are producing anti-epidemic materials and equipments day and night for the world. We share China's diagnosis and treatment guidelines with other countries in the world, hold video conferences with health experts from many countries and international organizations, and send medical teams to some countries severely hit by the pandemic. Many local governments in China have donated materials their twinning cities in over 50 countries. Chinese enterprises and private organizations have donated large amounts of medical supplies to more than 100 countries and international organizations. Not long ago, China's Alibaba Group provided medical supplies to all 54 countries in Africa. Another internet giant, China's Tencent company, has also set up a US $ 100 million global anti-pandemic fund designed to help curb the devastating spread of COVID-19, including a donation of US $ 10 million to the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. In order to raise masks for African countries as early as possible, Alibaba has cut the number of protective masks provided to its employees by half. We welcome any transnational companies will do the same as Chinese companies did. The more, the better. The sooner, the better. Don't fail the expectation of African countries.
In addition, the Chinese government pays US $ 50 million in dues to the WHO on a yearly basis in time and in full, and never defaults. We also provide US $ 5 million in additional assistance to the WHO every year. Although China's economy is facing many challenges due to the current global pandemic and the world economic situation, our own task of combating the imported epidemic being still very arduous, and this year we aiming to achieve the task of lifting all 5.71 million people out of poverty, we will still fully support African countries to fight COVID-19. The author is correct by saying that China is the second largest economy in the world, but our GDP per capita is only one sixth of that of developed countries. We do not intend to compete with any other country, and we are not interested in competing for "global leader." Our only goal is to save as many lives as possible. We sincerely welcome any capable country in the world to provide more support to African countries.
Fourthly, regarding the epidemic control cooperation between China and South Sudan. The South Sudanese government was one of the first countries to express condolences and support to China. Every day we received so many good wishes from ordinary people of the country. Many South Sudanese media have also made positive and objective reports on China's anti-epidemic work, speaking highly of China's achievements and commending the contribution China has made to supporting the world's fight against the pandemic. They also hold that the world could learn from China's successful practice and experience. During my meeting with H.E. President Kiir a few days ago, President emphasized once again to me that he himself, the government and people of South Sudan have always firmly supported the Chinese government and the Chinese people in our fight against the epidemic. He pointed out that had it not been for the efforts and sacrifices of the Chinese government and the Chinese people, the global epidemic situation would have been much worse than it is now. Although China itself still faces many challenges and difficulties, we will continue to provide support and assistance to South Sudan to the best of our capability.
Over the years, China has always regarded helping South Sudan improve its medical and health capabilities as an important field of China-South Sudan cooperation, and the results have benefited the local people. Over the years, China has trained a large number of medical personnel for South Sudan and helped build the Rumbek Kiir Mayardit Women's Hospital. A new expanded and mordernised Juba Teaching Hospital aided by China has been handed over to South Sudan at the end of last year. The new hospital has become one of the best in East Africa and can play a crucial role at a critical moment. Alibaba's first medical aid to South Sudan arrived a few days ago, and the second batch of assistance is being organized and implemented soon. Not long ago, medical experts from China's Anhui Province briefed South Sudan's medical personnel on China's COVID-19 prevention and control experience during a video conference organized by the Chinese embassy. A batch of medical supplies aided by Anhui Province is on the way. The US $ 100,000 Mr. Juma Peter mentioned in the article was in fact the funds that the Chinese embassy in South Sudan squeezed out of our tight budget for WHO's urgent procurement of medical supplies and equipment badly needed in South Sudan. We maintain close contact with the Government of South Sudan and the WHO Representative Office, and are further formulating and implementing assistance plans to the South Sudanese government as the situation requires. In addition, 1,040 tons of emergency food aid donated by China has arrived in Juba on April 4. Our support to South Sudan will not end up here.
The historical experience and lessons of the struggle between humans and viruses tell us that working together to help each other is the vaccine that never expires. Today, with the rapid globalization and a deep integration of various civilizations, the global village where we live has become an indivisible community of destiny for all. Facing challenges such as a major global public health crisis, all countries' destinies are intertwinned, and not a single country can be on its own. Only through solidarity and cooperation can countries in the world join hands to win a final victory against the pandemic at an early date.
Several days ago, I joined colleagues from the US, the EU, and African missions in a dialogue meeting with the High-Level Task Force of South Sudan chaired by the First Vice President, H.E. Dr. Riek Machar. Everyone hopes to unite to respond to the pandemic in a collective way. We all wish to contribute whatever we can and raise as much medical materials as possible, and we all agree to do it together at an earliest possible time. During the over 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, we have been growing up being surrounded by various "political viruses". The Chinese people have gradually acquired the ability of "herd immunity". However, facing those distorting remarks and smearing accusations, we will still need to take a dose of vaccination so that efforts of all countries in the world to respond effectively to the pandemic will not be jeopardized.