INTERVIEW: China continues to shine in global war against Covid-19 pandemic

Monday May 11 2020



Ambassador Wang Ke

Ambassador Wang Ke 

By John Namkwahe

Question: What are China’s experiences in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak?

Answer: Since the outbreak of Covid-19 epidemic, the Chinese government has acted out of the paramount concern for the life, safety and health of the people. Our strategy is to contain the epidemic at the source and cut off the transmission route. To achieve that, we have taken a series of measures.

First, we have mobilized various resources to tackle the challenge. After the outbreak of Covid-19, the Chinese government swiftly established epidemic response mechanisms. China’s top leader, President Xi Jinping, has been personally directing and planning the response, calling for all-out efforts of the Chinese people to fight the battle. More than 330 medical teams consisting of some 42,000 medical personnel, both civilian and military, were dispatched to Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, from all over the country. The Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals were swiftly built and started operation in Wuhan, Hubei Province, in addition to various temporary hospitals converted from gyms, conference and exhibition centers to treat the patients with mild symptoms. Nineteen provinces paired with other cities in Hubei to provide one-on-one support.

The second is strict implementation of epidemic control measures. We imposed lockdown on Wuhan, and exercised strict control over outflow of people from Hubei. All provinces in mainland China activated first-level public health emergency response, calling for minimized outdoor activities and carrying out grid-based management at community level. To curb the movement of people, we have extended the Spring Festival holiday, postponed the start of the new school semester and adopted staggered working hours and flexible restoration of economic activities. We asked all citizens to stay at home unless there is a necessary to go outside. Wearing masks is a must in public places.

The third is early detection, reporting, quarantine and treatment. Coronavirus will not go away by itself and rather it needs to be pushed down using public health care measures. According to China’s experience, it is essential to isolate and detect the suspected cases and the close contacts of confirmed cases early so that people are less exposed to the risk of infection. In addition, China’s practices show that concentrating patients, experts and resources in the designated hospitals is a scientific and effective way to treat the patients and prevent the spread of the disease.

The fourth is transparency. The Chinese government made great efforts to enhance people’s awareness of the disease and inspire their patriotism in order to mobilize more resources for the battle. China has been releasing information relating to Covid-19 on a daily basis, responding to public concerns in a timely manner, not only showing the seriousness of the government on epidemic control, but raising people’s sense of urgency and their collaboration with the government.

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What has China done for the inter national anti-epidemic cooperation? What assistance has the Chinese government provided to African countries, particularly Tanzania, in curtailing the spread of the virus and treating those who are infected?

Up to now, the Chinese government has provided urgently-needed medical supplies to more than 150 countries and international organizations, dispatched 19 teams of medical experts to 17 countries, and donated $50 million in cash to the WHO to support the global fight against Covid-19 and strengthen developing countries’ health systems.

China deeply relates to what Africa is experiencing in face of the challenges posed by Covid-19. The Chinese government has already donated the first batch of medical supplies to Zanzibar, which include 2,000 N95 masks, 10,000 surgical masks, 2,000 pieces of protective clothing, 2,000 protective goggles, 10,000 surgical gloves, 10,000 shoe covers, and 500 infrared thermometers. The same amount of medical supplies will soon be handed over to Tanzanian Mainland.

China’s Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have donated two batches of medical supplies to Tanzania, including ventilators, testing kits, masks, protecting clothing, face shields and gloves. The Chinese Embassy and enterprises here have also extended helping hands to Tanzania, by donating medical supplies and construction materials for building isolation centers.

Apart from that, to provide further technical support to Africa, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the National Health Commission have organized three video conferences, during which Chinese medical professionals shared their know-how with African officials and experts on epidemic prevention, control and treatment. Health experts from Tanzania also participated in these meetings.

China will step up its cooperation with Africa in public health and disease prevention and control. We are ready to work with Tanzania and other African countries to achieve the final victory against Covid-19.

Why does the Chinese government provide anti-epidemic aid/assistance to foreign countries, especially African countries?

China’s readiness to provide anti-epidemic assistance to foreign countries is inspired by humanitarianism and guided by the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind. Firstly, it’s China’s traditional virtue to repay goodwill with greater kindness. Earlier this year, when China was hit hard by Covid-19, the international community offered political support and medical supplies to China, for which we will never forget. As its domestic situation improved substantially, China started to reciprocate its kindness to those countries and international organizations that have assisted or supported China.

Secondly, as the first country heavily affected by Covid-19, China is fully empathetic with other peoples suffering from similar difficulties. And due to the experiences we have accumulated in containing this epidemic, we are in a better position to help other countries address the challenge.

Thirdly, the virus respects no borders and presents a common challenge to mankind. No country can wall itself off from its impact. China has proposed the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. The Covid-19 pandemic has driven home the urgency and importance of this proposal. China believes that only when Covid-19 is uprooted in the global sphere, can the health and safety of the Chinese people be better protected. Only with solidarity and cooperation can the international community prevail over the epidemic. China’s assistance to other countries has no ideological agenda, and is still less driven by selfish geopolitical interests.

I have noticed that many countries and international organizations have spoken highly of China’s contribution to the global fight against Covid-19. However, there are also a few politicians in the Western countries who blame China for hiding the truth and spreading disinformation about the disease. What’s your comment on their accusations?

China has been giving open, transparent and timely updates on Covid-19 epidemic to the world since the early days of the outbreak. On January 3, 2020, China started to send timely updates to WHO and other countries, including the United States. On January 11, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention put online five whole genome sequences of the novel coronavirus and shared data with the world. On January 23, Wuhan was put under lockdown.

The WHO estimates that the decisive, effective and timely measures taken by the Chinese government prevented the infection of tens of thousands of people. The journal Science published a paper by researchers in the United States, the UK and other countries on March 6, 2020, saying that China’s control measures worked by successfully breaking the chain of transmission and bought other countries valuable time. Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the medical expert leading the White House effort to contain the coronavirus, reportedly said that he refused to let others push him to say that China should warn the United States three months beforehand, because it just doesn’t comport with facts.

Unfortunately, the precious time that China bought for the world with huge efforts and sacrifice have not been used fully by some countries. The situation in these countries is becoming increasingly severe, and some politicians are trying to shift the blame to China and make it the “scapegoat”.

The virus knows no ideology, border or race. The destinies of all countries are closely intertwined. No one can make up for lost time by slandering others or shifting the blame. The only way to defeat the virus is through solidarity and cooperation.

There are allegations especially on the social media networks that suggest personal protective equipment manufactured in China and marketed all over the world is of poor quality to protect the users against the coronavirus. Could you brief me on the quality of the medical supplies donated by your government to the foreign countries?

The Chinese government takes the quality and safety of anti-pandemic medical supplies seriously. To support the international fight against the virus, China has taken many steps to strengthen inspection of exports and keep the export in sound order. All Chinese companies that export medical supplies related to Covid-19 response have to comply with China’s or importing countries’ quality standards and safety requirements.

The supplies donated by the Chinese government to Tanzania are all manufactured in accordance with Chinese standards and have been certified by Chinese inspection and quarantine authorities. Up to now, I have not heard any complaint from our Tanzanian friends about the quality of the face masks and other supplies donated by the Chinese side. I was informed that the donated products have been distributed to the healthcare workers in the front line of Covid-19 response as emergency goods, which have played an important role in protecting Tanzanian doctors and nurses.

There are many reasons for the so-called “quality problems” in China’s exports of anti-pandemic supplies, some of which are due to differences in quality standards between China and other countries, differences in usage habits and even improper handling, resulting in non-medical masks being used for medical purposes.

In this case, we hope that the governments and purchasers of Tanzania will choose products certified by Chinese regulatory authorities and produced by qualified enterprises, fully communicate with Chinese enterprises about the product standards and other information, and carefully check what the products are used for and their instructions for use.

Recently, there are some reports, especially on social media, about the alleged mistreatment of African nationals by Chinese authorities in South China Guangdong Province. Could you brief me on the real situation there?

China has taken the most comprehensive, stringent and thorough action to fight the virus. That is how China has been able to achieve important progress in controlling the outbreak. As the outbreak continues abroad, China is facing a growing challenge in preventing imported cases. This is particularly the case with Guangdong, a leading province in China’s opening-up endeavor. We must institute more rigorous measures across the board and tighten all potential loopholes that may trigger a rebound. China is doing this not just to be responsible to its own people, but also to the Africans and indeed all foreign nationals in Guangdong.

Frankly speaking, these incidents have different causes. Some were caused by the incompetence of law enforcement personnel, some were caused by excessive precautions taken by local communities or citizens due to panic, some were brought about by lack of communication between the Chinese and the Africans, some were brought about by inadaptability of some African nationals to the strict epidemic control measures, some were triggered by violation of mandatory quarantine rules or the failure to provide legal documents for their stay in China.

China is paying serious attention to the above-mentioned issues. Guangdong authorities have been taking a number of steps to improve its response. Health measures have been implemented in a non-differential way. Starting from 13 April, measures on Africans who are neither confirmed cases nor close contacts have been lifted in a phased way according to relevant containment protocols. A mechanism for effective communication has been established with African consulates general in Guangzhou. The Chinese side has also exempted all or part of the accommodation expenses of some Africans who have financial difficulties during their quarantine. All public venues, including shops, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, etc., have been required to be open and provide services to all people in a non-differentiated manner.

I would like to emphasise here that to treat all foreign nationals in China equally is our consistent policy and position. Chinese and Africans are good brothers and sisters. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, China and Africa have been standing together to fight the challenge. We should not let any isolated incident affect our valuable friendship, especially at this particular juncture when mutual trust, support and solidarity are more needed than ever.

China is the largest trading partner and the biggest source of investment in Tanzania, according to the available data. The business of Tanzanian traders and manufacturers have already been affected by the epidemic control measures taken by China and other countries. In your opinion, what are the major impacts of COVID-19 on the economic and trade relations between Tanzania and China and what should be done to mitigate the impacts? If COVID-19 exists for a long time, what policy adjustments should we make to cope with the new reality?

The spread of Covid-19 around the world inevitably poses a challenge to the economic and trade cooperation between China and Tanzania. According to the statistics of China’s Customs, the trade volume between China and Tanzania in January and February was down 14.72 per cent year on year. In addition, the bilateral cooperation in tourism, agriculture, mining and other sectors have also suffered from the pandemic. Some construction projects undertaken by the Chinese companies in Tanzania have been affected as well.

However, these challenges are periodic and temporary. China’s experience has shown that Covid-19 is controllable, curable and preventable. The Chinese government is very much determined to restore production, to provide stimulus and impetus to the recovery of its economy, and has laid out 6 main policies, which we called “six stabilizing methods”. As of 28 April, 99 per cent of China’s major industrial companies have resumed operation. In March, China’s manufacturing PMI increased by 16.3 percentage points over February. China’s economy will maintain steady growth in the long run. This momentum has not changed and will not change.

We are confident that China and Tanzania will jointly overcome the adverse impact of the pandemic through enhanced cooperation and innovation.

For example, promoting our trade, particularly imports from Tanzania. The 127th China Import and Export Fair will be held online in June. And also the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) will be held in November. We have invited Tanzania to participate in the country pavilion of the Third CIIE. It will provide enormous opportunities for our two countries to work together to resume the momentum of economic growth. We can also explore the way of innovation, by giving play to the role of new trade forms and models such as cross-border e-commerce to boost our bilateral trade.

China has provided a large sum of loans to African countries. As the economic impact of the pandemic becomes increasingly significant, some African nations have proposed a suspension or exemption of loans to creditor countries. What’s China’s position on this matter?

As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, quite a number of African countries are confronted with severe challenges in their economic and social development, with debt risks rising significantly. In fact, China is not one of the main creditors of Africa. According to the statistics of some international agencies, African countries’ main creditors are multilateral and private financial institutions.

China attaches great importance to the repayment pressure facing African countries. In this sense, China will actively implement the important consensus reached at the Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit held on March 26, particularly the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for Poorest Countries under the G20 Action Plan–Supporting the Global Economy through the Covid-19 Pandemic passed at the following virtual meeting of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on 15 April, in which China’s active participation and positive effort has contributed to ultimate agreement on the Initiative.

China has always been upholding the principle of seeking consultation on an equal footing and pursuing common development in the form of mutual benefit and win-win outcome. Within the framework of South-South Cooperation, China has provided other developing countries, including countries in Africa with its utmost assistance and conducted financial cooperation with relevant countries. The purpose is to help developing countries accelerate the development and facilitate the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For countries having financial difficulties, China is willing to settle the issue through bilateral consultation.

I am aware of the news that some international countries like the US organize repatriation flights for their citizens based in Tanzania amid Covid-19 pandemic threats across the globe. Is China also contemplating to do the same?

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Tanzania, the Chinese Embassy has been sparing no effort to cooperate actively with the Tanzanian government in order to safeguard the health and safety of Chinese nationals in this country. At the same time, the Embassy always collect and publish the latest information and give our advice relating to the epidemic in Tanzania, and has introduced several online medical consulting platforms to Chinese nationals for reference. We call upon all Chinese companies and citizens, as long as they are in Tanzania, to comply with the local preventive measures and regulations, protect themselves and their employees, and work together with the Tanzanian people to prevail over the pandemic.

As for the evacuation of the Chinese citizens, we are still in the process of observing and evaluating relevant situations.