Uphold the Great Spirit of Fighting COVID-19, Spearhead International Cooperation: The Story of China’s Pandemic Response
Ambassador Zhao Zhiyuan
13 June 2021
On May 21st, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the Global Health Summit via video links in Beijing and made important remarks under the theme “Working Together to Build a Global Community of Health for All”, which further boosts the confidence of countries in solidarity against COVID-19 and points the way forward for international anti-pandemic cooperation. Since the outbreak of the virus, under the strong leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with Xi Comrade Jinping at its core, the Chinese government has adopted swift and timely measures with a strong sense of responsibility. As a result, China became among the first to control the local spread and has been providing substantive support to the global response, setting the pace with concrete actions for the building of a health community for all.
China and Ethiopia have made remarkable progress in solidarity against COVID-19 and scored fruitful achievements in health cooperation. Despite its capacity restraints and large vaccination needs at home, China became in March the first and only country to make continued vaccine donations to Ethiopia through inter-government bilateral channels, in an active effort to honor President Xi’s pledge of making African countries the first beneficiaries of Chinese vaccines. Not long ago, vaccine donations from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to the Ethiopian National Defense Force were successfully handed over, which spoke volumes of the all-weather brotherhood between the two countries and their defense forces. With Chinese assistance in purchasing vaccines from China, Ethiopian Airlines can better play its role as the “air bridge” for China-Africa joint response against the virus. China is also mobilizing resources for vaccine donations to the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, bringing the powerful weapon and the hope of life to more and more Ethiopians. The BGI test kits plant in Ethiopia has been up and running for over half a year. The Chinese company also unveiled its first fast-testing laboratory in Africa at the Bole International Airport, which went into service in April and leveled up the local capability in virus detection and pandemic control. China and Ethiopia have been standing by each other against the pandemic all along and jointly carrying out effective response actions with cooperation all around among governments, defense forces, business communities and civil organizations. It has set a stellar example for China-Africa solidarity against the virus with the full demonstration of the high level of China-Ethiopia Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership.
When the coronavirus struck at the start of last year, General Secretary Xi Jinping of the CPC personally directed and planned China’s response efforts with resolute overall decision-making. The Chinese people acted as one with true grit and resolve, and adopted unprecedented prevention and control measures that are scientific and targeted. Through hard and bitter fights, China managed to contain the spread of virus at home in one month and more, put the number of new domestic cases under double digits in around two months, and secured decisive victories in the fight against the pandemic in Wuhan and Hubei in nearly three months. China has achieved major strategic gains in controlling the virus and made parallel progress on pandemic response and socioeconomic development.
This April 8th marked the anniversary of the end of the Wuhan lockdown. Wuhan was the first city to report COVID-19 cases and the first to bring the virus under control. Its rebirth with new glories is worth remembrance and celebration for the Chinese people, and an achievement that has drawn the world’s attention. Wuhan and Hubei’s heroic fight against COVID-19 is an epitome of China’s response efforts, and more importantly, an embodiment of the unique character and strength of the Chinese nation. The people of Wuhan and Hubei have illustrated the great spirit of putting life above everything else, rallying the whole nation, braving danger, respecting science, and safeguarding a shared future.
I. Put people and their lives first
After the infections were discovered, General Secretary Xi asked Party committees, governments at all levels and the departments concerned to put people’s well-being and health above everything else in response efforts. “We must make the commitment to protecting our people’s lives at all costs and live up to it.” To honor the pledge, healthcare workers took shifts night and day to ensure every case is tracked and every patient treated. Each and every life was cared for with full devotion, be it a 30-hour-old newborn, a centenarian, an international student, or a foreign visitor. When the relief efforts came to the crunch, the CPC’s 4.6 million party cells launched a set of defensive actions, and 39 million Party members dedicated themselves to the front line, including 13 million of them volunteered their services and hundreds even sacrificed their lives in the effort to protect people’s health.
The Chinese government is by all means, for the people and by the people. In the face of this formidable public health challenge, the CPC’s people-centered governance tenet and value has brought together a country’s worth of engagement, pulling off life-saving miracles one after another.
II. Act as one and brave the danger
Success favors those who pursue the common goal together. The whole nation rallies to the support of Hubei and its capital Wuhan. The rescue efforts, at a scale unseen before, gathered full steam with every citizen working in concert persistently. Across China’s epic journey of pandemic response, socialist system with Chinese characteristics has proved uniquely effective to resolve major, daunting and pressing matters. It is incredibly moving that patriotic Chinese people have come together in unison to ride out the storm. 346 national medical squads, consisting of 42.6 thousand medical workers and over 900 public health workers, rushed to Hubei’s rescue despite the mounting danger. Huoshenshan Hospital and Leishenshan Hospital were built in 10 days, 16 makeshift hospitals were established, and more than 600 quarantine sites were set up. The world was impressed by the speed, scope and efficiency of China’s response actions. More importantly, the 1.4 billion people of China shared the same goal on anti-pandemic actions and answered the call of government. They complied with control measures, such as lockdown and quarantine monitoring, and stayed home to avoid crowds. They offered their share of small yet valuable help to bring the virus under control at the shortest time.
In the fight against the coronavirus, Chinese people have stood shoulder to shoulder with each other. Patriotism, collectivism, and socialism have built a strong line of defense against the pandemic.
III. Observe the laws of science
China has taken on the responsibility of tackling the health emergency with no hesitation and adopted a science-led strategy against this major communicable disease that was unseen before. The CPC and the Chinese government have taken a science-based approach to every part of the response efforts, including decision-making, patient treatment, technological innovation and social governance. Wuhan and Hubei wasted no time in shutting down outbound travel and exercised tight controls at an unprecedented scale. Makeshift hospitals were set up immediately to admit and treat all the infected cases. Diagnosis and treatment protocols have been updated regularly drawing on both traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine. A variety of technology platforms have been explored to promote the R&D of targeted vaccine. China advanced large-scale nucleic acid testing, big data-based tracking and health code identification, as well as customized control measures differentiated by geographical risk level and organized job and business reopening. The approach in the examples above highlights China’s respect for and practice of science.
China couldn’t have controlled the pandemic without advances in science and technology. China pulled off a succession of victories by always resorting to science as the ultimate solution. The remarkable achievements of China’s anti-pandemic efforts epitomize the practical, spontaneous and innovative spirit of its people.
IV: Work together through thick and thin
A noble cause carries everyone forward; and compassion knows no borders. In a way, COVID-19 is a wakeup call for the world. It reminds us that humanity shares a common stake. No country can stay immune in the face of a major crisis such as this one. What we should do is to work together as a team. As the country first hit by the worst pandemic in a century, China has stayed open and transparent and carried out its duties towards the world with dedication despite its heavy response burden locally. It reported information on the virus at the earliest possible time, shared the genome sequence with the international community in a timely manner, and wasted no time in releasing the diagnosis and treatment protocol and response plan. China launched the most intensive and extensive emergency humanitarian assistance to international partners since the founding of the New China, although bearing heavy burden of pandemic prevention domestically. China has provided 2 billion US dollars in assistance for the COVID-19 response and economic and social recovery in developing countries hit by the pandemic. China has sent medical supplies to more than 150 countries and 13 international organizations, providing more than 280 billion masks, 3.4 billion protective suits and 4 billion testing kits to the world. A cooperation mechanism has been established for Chinese hospitals to pair up with 41 African hospitals, and construction for the China-assisted project of the Africa CDC headquarters officially started at the end of last year. Important progress has also been made in the China-UN joint project to set up in China a global humanitarian response depot and hub. China is fully implementing the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative for Poorest Countries and has so far put off debt repayment exceeding 1.3 billion US dollars, the highest deferral amount among G20 members.
Vaccine cooperation is another major area where China strives to facilitate global efforts. China strongly advocates making COVID vaccines a public good. China was among the first to pledge that its vaccines, when available, would be made a global public good, and China has worked in real earnest to improve vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries, especially in African countries. To date, China has honored its commitment by providing vaccine aids to more than 80 developing countries including Ethiopia and exporting vaccines to 43 countries. China has also joined COVAX to provide vaccines for emergency use in developing countries. Meanwhile, the vaccine manufacturing cooperation between China and multiple developing countries makes a fast production ramp-up possible. China has made its contribution to the global anti-pandemic fight with concrete actions, which demonstrates its strong sense of responsibility as a major country and the commitment to building a global community of health for all, and has gained wide recognition from the world.
In continued support for global solidarity against COVID-19, President Xi announced at the recent Global Health Summit that China will provide an additional 3 billion US dollars in international aid over the next three years to support COVID-19 response and economic and social recovery in other developing countries. Having already supplied 350 million doses of vaccines to the world, China will provide still more vaccines to the best of its ability. China categorically supports its vaccine companies in transferring technologies to other developing countries and carrying out joint production with them. Having announced support for waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, China also supports the World Trade Organization and other international institutions in making an early decision on this matter. China proposes setting up an international forum on vaccine cooperation to promote fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. In short, China has fought the pandemic for the common good, not just for itself; China has pursued shared prosperity, not just its own development.
COVID-19 has changed the world in profound ways, but it will never stand in the way of the burgeoning growth of China-Africa and China-Ethiopia relations. China was among the first to contain the virus and reopen the economy and the only major economy with positive growth in the year 2020. China sincerely hopes and firmly believes that Ethiopia is able to defeat the virus and rekindle economic growth at an early date. China is ready to work together with Ethiopia to deliver on the outcomes of the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 by establishing new highlights in health partnerships while further synergizing respective development plans, with a focus on practical cooperation across the board in the post-COVID era. China will also promote substantive, results-oriented high-quality cooperation with Ethiopia under the Belt and Road Initiative, thus making greater tangible contribution to Ethiopia’s industrialization and modernization drive and the improvement of people’s livelihood.
“By setting sail together, we could ride the wind, break the waves, and brave the journey of ten thousand miles.” As long as we pool our efforts and keep to the right direction, the giant vessel of China-Ethiopia Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership will stay on an even keel and sail toward a brighter future!