Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, gave a talk at a UC San Diego forum on China-US relations. In his remarks at the forum, the ambassador said that the prevention and control of the coronavirus outbreak in China is the top priority for the country and that the well-being of people always comes first. He stressed that China is doing whatever it can and using whatever means it must to curb the spread of the coronavirus and treat those affected.
The ambassador also emphasized that China is doing all this not just for the health and safety of the Chinese people, but for the health and safety of the entire global community. He pointed out that the fight against the coronavirus once again shows that we live in a shared community where all of us are in this together.
China has taken extraordinary measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak. The entire country has gone into battle mode to combat it. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, China recently completed the construction of a 1,000-bed emergency hospital in days and a second 1,600-bed hospital is under construction. The People’s Liberation Army has also set up medical teams to help local medical staff in this battle.
The coronavirus is only one of many health threats that we face as a global community and China is moving mountains to contain it. The H1N1 influenza virus that originated in the United States in 2009, for example, killed an estimated 151,700-575,400 people worldwide during the first year the virus circulated, according to official estimates.
The United States did not do enough to stop the global spread of H1N1 but it has done too much in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in terms of restrictions, which is more harmful than helpful.
Many believe that the US response to the coronavirus outbreak has set a bad example for other countries and created unnecessary fear and anxiety. The United States had raised its advisory for China to Level 4, telling Americans not to travel to China and for those currently in China to attempt to depart as soon as possible. It has also banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have been to China in the last 14 days, which goes against the recommendation of the World Health Organization that there should not be any travel or trade restrictions.
All countries should take appropriate defensive measures in times of uncertainty to protect the health and safety of their citizens, but we should also be careful not to heighten fears around the world, fueling a wave of panic and overreaction and a wave of racism and xenophobia.
To add insult to injury, certain US officials see the misfortune as an opportunity to score points against China. Around the time that WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attacked the Communist Party of China, calling it “the central threat of our times,” even though China’s ruling party is going all out to lead the fight against the outbreak, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggested that the coronavirus a good thing, saying that it will “help” to accelerate the return of American jobs.
Unnecessary panic and cruel and heartless comments will do nothing to help contain the virus and will only heighten negative feelings, including racism and hostility. As the Chinese ambassador pointed out in his remarks, we must guard against any “political viruses” that prevent the two largest countries from joining hands to meet shared challenges.
We cannot let unnecessary panic or malicious agendas to control the response to a problem that requires all of us to work together.