A few days ago, the 73rd World Health Assembly was held as a virtual conference. Chinese President Xi Jinping made a statement at the Opening Ceremony, announcing five measures by China to boost international cooperation against COVID-19 and calling on the international community to work together to prevent and control the epidemic as soon as possible. At this very special and critical moment, President Xi sends through his remarks a very important and firm signal, winning global attention and appreciation.
The meeting also witnessed India’s election to the chairmanship of the WHO executive committee. Both are welcoming and affirmative milestones highlighting the greater responsible role played by the developing countries.
Three points worth pondering over:
Scientific Research and Review
President Xi stresses that China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control, in order to sum up experience and address any deficiencies. He said that this work should be based on science and professionalism, led by the WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner.
The so-called independent, international investigation against China landed up into failure. During the WHA conference, the only resolution to succeed on COVID-19 response was the one which requires scientific research to identify the zoonotic source of the virus as well as intermediate hosts and the route of introduction to the human population. The resolution unequivocally affirms and supports WHO's leading role and calls on member states to prevent discrimination and stigmatisation. China is, along with other more than 140 countries, a co-sponsor.
The Taiwan Issue
The Taiwan issue has been a sensitive and haunting issue for WHO. The Taiwan authorities along with its agents have been trying to raise it during the WHA assembly every year. This year, they tried even harder and calculated that the on-going epidemic would be the best excuse.
However, the WHA conference this year did not even discuss the proposal due to shortened time frame. It must be pointed out that the people in the Taiwan region are our compatriots. Based on the one-China principle, the Central Government of China has made appropriate arrangements for Taiwan's participation in global health affairs. There are no obstacles for Taiwan experts to participate in WHO's technical activities. The so-called "international epidemic prevention gap" was just another failed excuse for the Taiwan authorities to seek independence under the pretext of the epidemic.
President Xi announced at the 73rd WHA conference that COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good. This will be China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability especially in developing countries. By leveling the playfield, China has set an unprecedented responsible example in terms of vaccine application.
Currently, over 120 vaccines are under research globally, 8 of which are under clinical phase: China–3, US–2 and UK–1. Any attempt to control vaccine research to take global or monetary advantage and seek hegemony is extremely selfish and ill-intentioned. China has no interest in becoming another superpower and seek economic or health hegemony, or under any circumstances. This is China’s consistent policy.
China and India, not China or India
Mumbai is the economic and cultural centre of India, and also the worst-hit city during the COVID-19 epidemic in India. The Chinese side has contributed steadily to help India’s fight. At local government level, Mumbai’s sister city Shanghai donated medical material to Maharashtra State Government and Mumbai Municipal Corporation respectively. At business level, China’s Sany Corporation donated 600,000 masks to Maharashtra, its largest batch of donation to any foreign country. Many other Chinese companies like Alibaba and Fosun also donated large amounts of medical goods to India. At cultural level, the Chinese world-renowned movie superstar Jackie Chan specially recorded a video to express well wishes and support to the Indian people, which echoed the video recorded by Bollywood star Aamir Khan to show support to China's anti-epidemic efforts. These touching stories for people-to-people exchanges have proven and will continue to prove that China is the best partner for India in its fight against the epidemic.
Reopening businesses and economic activities is an issue everyone concerns. President Xi and Prime Minister Modi in their meeting in Chennai agreed China and India should seek to build a partnership in manufacturing industry. China has a mature, stable and huge market, which is the most reliable partner of Indian industry, commerce and economy. We have every reason to join hands in the fight against COVID-19 and long-term cooperation afterwards.
Recently, cyclone Amphan hit northeastern India, and the Chinese people felt the same because the southeast coast of China, such as Guangdong and Fujian, also suffered heavily from a typhoon same time. In this turbulent world, some western forces won’t drop their colonial mentality and “divide and rule” strategy. If we learn from history, stay united, China and India together shall lead in recuperating, stabilising and rejuvenating our countries, civilizations and the world.
The author is Consul General of the People’s Republic of China Consulate in Mumbai. The views expressed are personal.