China’s fight against COVID-19 can be summarized as four “strongs”.

China’s fight against COVID-19 can be summarized as four “strongs”
Interview with H.E. Cao Zhongming Ambassador of China to the Kingdom of Belgium


First is strong central leadership. President Xi Jinping personally oversees and directs the country’s COVID-19 response, deciding to establish the Central Leading Group on Responding to the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak, convening multiple central committee meetings at the highest level and making timely instructions. President Xi was in Wuhan not long ago, when he visited communities, hospitals, disease control and prevention centers, and made instructions on the front line. Under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, a host of most comprehensive, stringent, and effective measures were taken including lockdown of Wuhan, a city with a population of over 11 million.


Second is strong coordination. The nation has established an inter-agency prevention and control task force to coordinate efforts combating COVID-19. Nineteen provinces paired up with cities across Hubei Province including Wuhan to provide support. Emergency supplies were mobilized. Over 42,000 medics rushed to its aid. 4000 military medical personnel were deployed. Two specialized hospitals were built in a little bit over 10 days. Over one dozen venues were repurposed into temporary hospitals so that every patient with serious as well as mild symptoms can be admitted.


Third is strong cohesion. In the face of such a large-scale epidemic, human vulnerabilities are fully exposed, but standing together we are set to triumph. Medical personnel put their lives on the line as they volunteered on the front line. Community workers worked around the clock to screen the health condition of residents and provide them with daily necessities. Companies start resuming production while stepping up precautionary measures. Chinese people have largely complied with government advice and stayed in home isolation. Everyone makes sacrifices and plays his part in the nation’s collective fight against the epidemic.


Fourth is a strong sense of responsibility. Upholding the principle of a community with a shared future for mankind, and in an open, transparent, pragmatic and efficient manner, China has shared the genetic code, diagnostics and treatment protocols with WHO and the international community, and engaged in international cooperation on treatment and drug development. We support response efforts by other countries seriously affected by COVID-19 and have held several teleconferences together with the European Union, fulfilling China’s responsibility as a major country.


These experiences are gained thanks to the tremendous sacrifices Chinese people have made. Dr. Bruce Aylwalt, head of the WHO’s COVID-19 mission in China, commented that China’s method has proven effective. The Lancet also noted that China’s experiences are worth learning from. While countries are free to choose prevention and control measures suited to their own conditions, it is our hope that all countries will act in the spirit of a community of a shared future for mankind and pay high attention to the COVID-19, make best use of the window opportunity created by China, take early and proactive measures to jointly safeguard world public health security.


In the short-term the COVID-19 outbreak will arguably put pressure on the Chinese economy, especially in such sectors as restaurants, hotels, tourism and entertainment, but the effects would be temporary and will only be on part of the economy.


First the Chinese economy has a solid foothold. China is the only country in the world that has all UN-listed industrial sectors. We also have an ultra-large market with over 1.4 billion people and 400 million middle income earners. The Chinese economy is not a small boat. It is a titanic ship fully capable of withstanding strong wind and high tides.


Second is vitality. China’s economic growth nowadays is driven in large by domestic demand which the epidemic can only hold up temporarily. The pent-up consumption and investment demand will be unleashed after the outbreak subsides. In the meantime the epidemic has enabled growth of emerging industries and new business models, including smart manufacturing, online consumption, and education.


Third firm policy support. President Xi just presided over a meeting identifying 15 key areas for balancing epidemic control and economic and social development. The central and local governments have and will continue to introduce economic stimulus measures including lowering financial costs, fee and tax relief, ensuring labor supply, etc., to create favorable conditions for production resumption. All of these strong measures bolster our confidence in achieving this year’s economic and social targets.


Forty years since reform and opening-up, China has lifted over 800 million people out of poverty, contributing to over 70% of world’s total poverty reduction. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres put it China is the single country making the biggest contribution to the global anti-poverty fight. Since 2012, China has made further strides as population below the poverty line dropped from 989.9 million towards the end of 2012 to 5.51 million by the end of 2019. The poverty headcount ratio dropped to 0.6 percent from 10.2 percent during the period, with regional overall poverty being basically eradicated. China’s poverty alleviation tasks are near completion.


Our work to phase out absolute poverty will be wrapped up in 2020. Although being affected by the outbreak, we will overcome the difficulties and deliver on the promises the government made to the Chinese people. Not long ago President Xi Jinping spoke at a symposium on securing a decisive victory in poverty alleviation and laid out our work towards fulfilling the targets on time. The nation will carry through with a region-specific, tiered and targeted approach, which means that for regions seriously affected by COVID-19 outbreak, the main focus will still be on prevention and control but also coordinating poverty alleviation needs. For areas unaffected or only slightly affected, main focus will be on advancing anti-poverty fight. Upon completion of the poverty eradication task this year, China will achieve 10 years ahead of schedule the goals set in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .


Since the outbreak, President Xi Jinping has spoken over the phone with leaders of France and Germany. Premier Li Keqiang has also talked to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. China has, in a timely and transparent manner, updated the international community including the EU of the latest developments. Public health experts from the two sides have held multiple teleconferences sharing latest information and experiences combating COVID-19. China and Belgium have also been coordinating together in public health particularly in epidemic response. Communication and cooperation between China and the EU is more precious in difficult times, and speaks volume about the rich substance of our comprehensive strategic partnership.


The negotiation of the China-EU investment agreement is on the top of the bilateral agenda this year. Despite spread of the epidemic, pace of negotiations has been accelerating. Just last week, the two sides held the 27th round of negotiations through a video conference, which fully demonstrated the mutual strong will of reaching the agreement on schedule. China is committed to advancing negotiations. We believe that reaching a high-level and balanced investment agreement is in the interests of both sides and will bring tangible benefits.


The international community has given China valuable support facing COVID-19. President Xi Jinping had phone calls with national leaders of over 10 countries. Prime Minister of Cambodia and President of Mongolia paid visits to China amid the outbreak. China also received sympathies and support via letters and phone calls from over 170 national leaders and over 40 leaders of international and regional organizations. Many countries, international organizations and civil groups donated medical supplies to China. China is ready to reciprocate. Although we are still at a crucial stage of epidemic control, we have already been assisting countries seriously affected by the epidemic and in urgent need. Chin has donated 20 million dollars to the WHO in support of the response efforts of developing countries.


Virus knows no borders and is the common enemy of mankind. Ebola, H1N1 and other public health events coming up over the past years have proved that multilateralism, global governance, and international collaboration are extremely important for overcoming such common challenges, while unilateralism, indifference and inaction hurt one’s own interests as well as those of human society. Going forward, China will continue to act in the spirit of a community of a shared future, support the professionalism, coordination and the leading role of the WHO, and work with international partners for the constant improvement of global public health governance.


BEIJING, March 2, 2020
Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, talks with experts during his visit to the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University in Beijing, capital of China, March 2, 2020. Xi on Monday inspected the scientific research on novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well as the diagnosis and treatment of the disease in his visit to two institutes in Beijing. (Photo Xinhua/Yan Yan)

BCECC Chinese New Year’s Reception 2020,
Mr. Bernard Dewit Chairman BCECC, H.E. Mr. Cao Zhongming, Ambassador of
P.R. China to Belgium Barbara Dietrich, CEO Diplomatic World