Towards a happy ending


  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 17 Mar 2020

Quick action: A road block manned by police to stop people leaving Wuhan on Jan 25. China’s swift action to lockdown several provinces with millions of people to combat the spread of Covid-19 drew praise from the World Health Organisation. — AFP

“PREJUDICE keeps us from accepting each other, while pride keeps us from loving each other.” This is a classical reflection drawn by readers through the ages from Pride And Prejudice, a masterpiece written by English novelist Jane Austen in the 19th century. This lesson may also apply to relations between nations. Honesty and sincerity will win you good friends while cheating and blackmailing can only produce enemies.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, I have been keeping a close eye on developments every day, worried and concerned about the situation in China and for the people who are infected. Though a little bit relived now about China, I still do not feel cheered up at all because from a “people’s war” in China this situation has evolved into a “global war” encompassing the world.

What is relieving and encouraging to me is that things are getting better day by day in all parts of China, including Hubei province, the most severely hit area of the pandemic, and we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Up until midnight of March 12, the number of newly confirmed cases in China decreased, for the first time, to a single-digit number. Every province in China, except Hubei, has witnessed five consecutive days of zero new locally confirmed cases, with only a few imported from abroad. Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, has seen a decrease of new confirmed cases to a single-digit number for two consecutive days at the time of writing. China is winning this war against Covid-19.

What worries me still is the rapid spread of the virus around the world. Up until 5pm on March 12,117 countries and regions outside China have been hit by the pandemic, with 44,067 confirmed cases and 1,440 deaths.

On the night of March 11, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom, announced that “Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic” and he is “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity as well as by the alarming levels of inaction (of some countries)”. Dr Bruce Aylward, head of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Covid-19 recently said: “Now that cases (outside China) are picking up, my phone is ringing much more. People are asking: How did China do it? What did they do exactly? What can we do?”

And his answer is simple: China’s counterattack can be replicated, but it will require speed, money, imagination and political courage.

Since the outbreak began in Wuhan in mid to late January, the Chinese government has been decisive and resolute in taking the most stringent and comprehensive measures to curb its spread. A series of measures were taken, showing clearly to the world a China acting as a responsible major power, thanks to the professionalism and devotedness of Chinese medical workers, and the resilience and self-discipline of the Chinese people.

These measures included the quick and decisive lockdown of Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic, fast construction of mobile cabin hospitals, nationwide coordination and dispatch of resources to Hubei Province, and the closed-off management of residential communities in other provincial and municipal units across the country.

On Feb 24, a report issued by the WHO-China Joint Mission pointed out that, in combating this novel coronavirus, China has adopted “the most ambitious, agile and aggressive measures ever taken in history, probably preventing at least tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of cases, making itself the solid frontline in defending mankind against this virus”.

China has paid a huge price as a consequence of this, suffering a huge loss in both human and material resources, yet saving the whole world from bigger losses and more damage. Dr Aylward, touched by the Chinese people’s sacrifice, said emotionally that “to the people of Wuhan, it is recognised that the world is in your debt”.

Yet, while China is busy combating the virus, there are some unkind and discordant noises in the air.

Some Western media intentionally named Covid-19 the “China virus” or “Wuhan pneumonia”; some anti-China US politicians made up a fancy story that Covid-19 is a biochemical weapon leaked from labs in Wuhan; America’s Wall Street Journal referred to China as the “Real sick man of Asia”; Germany’s Der Spiegel had a cover article with the title “Coronavirus, made in China”; an American TV host even arrogated that since “the coronavirus originated from China”, China should say sorry to the rest of the world.

Dr Michael J. Rhan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, pointed out that, “coronaviruses are a global phenomenon; they exist on a global basis. It’s an unlucky accident of history or nature that they emerge in a certain place and it’s really important that we don’t start to ascribe blame to geographic origin and that we look at this in terms of how we respond, how we contain and how we stop this virus”.

Dr Zhong Nanshan, a top respiratory expert and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engin-eering, also said that the pandemic first breaking out in China does not necessarily mean that it originated in China. A group of 27 prominent public health scientists globally – including Lam Sai Kit, a renounced public health expert from Malaysia – signed a statement strongly condemning conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin, leaving those who invented the theory a laughing stock before the whole world.

Some media pointed out that back in 2009, H1N1 first broke out in the United States, then spread to more than 214 countries and regions, causing thousands of deaths. Should these countries and people ask the United States to apologise for that?

Then there are those who take pleasure in China’s misfortune. Some foreign media, turning a blind eye to China’s strenuous efforts and great sacrifices made in this battle, have kept disparaging and defaming China, either out of misperception or on purpose. They even have used words with apparent allusion to racism in their publications, which have dismayed and upset the Chinese people, and aroused resentfulness and even indignation among readers in many countries.

What is worse, some Western politicians, obsessed with the ossified political logic of “opposing whatever China is doing”, keep pointing fingers at China, even at this critical moment with the whole world endangered by the virus. Interes-tingly, China was criticised for being clumsy and inefficient before the lockdown of Wuhan; and then called a violator of human rights and people’s freedom after the lockdown. In their world, China is just wrong about everything.

Pride, prejudice and hatred hidden deep in some people’s minds are actually more vicious monsters than the virus, and a danger to all. As Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said: “We must deplore the lies spread by governments and people who are stooping so low as to use a threat against all humanity as an instrument of geopolitical strategy. Shame on them.”

The pandemic is like a magic mirror that sorts true friends from false ones.

What touched me most is the sincere concern and generous support given by people from different social circles of different countries. They have provided valuable and timely support and assistance in varied forms to China to help combat the pandemic – something that the Chinese people will always remember and cherish dearly.

In Malaysia, the government, civil society organisations and individuals have offered helping hands to China and the Chinese people. Some have donated materials and money, some have composed songs and made videos to boost the Chinese people’s spirits. Donations can be quantified in monetary terms yet the friendship implicit in them is priceless. Every call of “China, stay strong”, every piece of aid coming from our Malaysian friends is a manifestation of love and friendship, underlining the spirit of the Malay idiom I like most: “Bukit sama didaki, lurah sama dituruni.”

There is a Chinese saying which goes like this: “You spare a peach for me, I give you a piece of white jade for friendship.” This is exactly how the Chinese treat friends. The Chinese people cherish friendship, appreciate kindness, and always remember others’ help and support, especially in difficult times.

China will continue to fight the pandemic with perseverance and resolution, making its contribution to the global fight against Covid-19.

Part of that includes sharing its experiences and the lessons learnt so far with the WHO and other affected countries. This includes methods of medical treatments and ways of social mobilisation in curbing the spread of the virus.

China has also sent expert groups, medical resources and virus test kits to the most severely hit countries of Iran, Italy and South Korea. Having the best knowledge gained from combating the pandemic in the early stages, China has no hesitation in shouldering its responsibility as the backbone of the global coalition combating Covid-19.

This virus is the common enemy to all mankind. As a matter of fact, people from different countries have already formed a community with a shared future. Unity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons in defeating this pandemic. All countries should work together to weave a global web to contain the spread of this virus.

To achieve this, we should rely on science rather than blind faith, on cooperation rather than prejudice.

With the vicious virus enemy confronting all of us, there are different choices to make. Is it to offer a helping hand or give a hostile blow to others; to fight side by side with one and another or stand by waiting and seeing; to give support and solace to injured ones or add insult to their suffering? The right choices are easy to make.

The main characters in Pride And Prejudice had fairly happy endings, probably because they had finally given up their pride and prejudice.

I hope that people in the real world can also give up on their obsessions so that we can all head for the happy ending of winning a final victory in this global war against the pandemic.

BAI TIAN

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Malaysia

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