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Foreign Policy

Cooperation the Only Way Forward

Apr 20, 2020


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There has recently been a growing call from think tanks in the United States for cooperation with China.

Around 100 former U.S. government officials and scholars, for examples, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice stressed that the coronavirus transcends borders and nationalities, but no effort against it will be successful without China-U.S. cooperation. In another example, U.S. federal and subnational authorities, as well as businesses, have asked to buy medical supplies from China. 

In the face of this common enemy to mankind, China-U.S. cooperation is definitely not optional — it is compulsory. One hopes the U.S. will match words with action. 

As of April 20, the U.S. had reported 762,896 confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly a third of the global total, and more than 40,000 deaths.

Globally, 213 countries and regions reported COVID-19 cases on the same date. The number of confirmed cases approached 2.4 million. The number of deaths reached 165,662.

The coronavirus is changing the world in profound ways. As Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, said at a Politburo Standing Committee meeting on April 8, the spread of the virus around the globe is destabilizing and introduces many uncertainties, and so people must be well prepared, in both thinking and action, to deal with a volatile external environment for a long time to come. 

No time should be wasted in saving lives. Mankind is literally at stake. 

China and the U.S. are important members of the international community, as well as the world’s two largest economies. Therefore, their cooperation is especially consequential under the current circumstances. At stake is the well-being of the two peoples and indeed the whole world.

At this crucial moment, the two presidents have pointed the way forward for China-U.S. cooperation. Speaking by phone with U.S. President Donald J. Trump on March 27, Xi said: “I have been following closely and with concern the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The current situation calls for solidarity and cooperation. China is well aware of the current difficulties the U.S. faces, and is willing to help as its ability permits. The China-U.S. relationship has reached an important juncture, where cooperation is the only right choice.”

In response, Trump said he would make sure the U.S. would work with China to fight the outbreak without interference. He thanked China for providing medical supplies to the U.S. and for enhancing bilateral medical and health exchanges. He tweeted later: “Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. We are working closely together. Much respect!” 

One hopes the two sides will act on the important consensus of the two heads of state. Specifically, they should respect each other, overcome obstacles, properly handle sensitive issues and strengthen cooperation in outbreak control and other areas, with a view toward keeping the bilateral relationship on the right track. 

A review of history shows that China and the U.S. have worked together before and jointly made important contributions in tackling global challenges.

During the 2008 international financial crisis, China and the U.S. joined hands to overcome the difficulties, and made the G20 the premier forum for crisis management, thus playing a key role in steering the world out of the woods.

When Ebola broke out in 2014, both sent medical teams to Africa and in collaboration with other countries successfully stemmed the global spread of the virus.

The two countries have also worked closely in recent years on climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, counterterrorism and energy security. 

History teaches us that China-U.S. cooperation is the only viable way forward, be it in fighting a common enemy of mankind or in resolving bilateral differences and frictions. Only when both China and the U.S. win can the world win. 

In this war of human vs. virus, China stands shoulder to shoulder with the American people. It shares information and experience with the U.S. without reservation and seeks closer bilateral medical and health cooperation in the same spirit.

Competent Chinese authorities are facilitating U.S. purchases of supplies from China, and China’s local governments, companies and NGOs have been donating medical supplies to America. With a population of 1.4 billion, China has a massive domestic demand for medical supplies. Yet the Chinese people, out of humanitarian spirit, have been doing all they can to help the Americans and other peoples around the world. Chinese companies are working around the clock to produce and deliver the medical supplies on the U.S. purchase list.

Jack Ma announced on Sina Weibo that his foundations have sourced through various channels and packed, ready for shipment, 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks for the American people. Even though the case of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou has not been resolved, the company has donated a large amount of medical supplies to the worst-hit state of New York, including 10,000 N95 masks, 20,000 protective suits, 50,000 sets of goggles and 10,000 gloves. On April 4, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed his thanks three times on the same day for the 1,000 ventilators donated by the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. These examples show that China has empathy for the U.S. difficulties.

On April 5, top Chinese and American academics held a workshop on how the two countries’ medical systems could better respond to COVID-19. The experts exchanged views in detail on China’s containment experience, the latest progress in the search for medicines and vaccines, international collaboration and the widening support in society. Two similar events were held in late March, attracting some 50,000 viewers from around the world.

All this shows that the Chinese are a grateful people who always reciprocate kindness. Assistance and support go both ways between China and America. When the virus was raging in China, people from various sectors in the U.S. donated large amounts of supplies to China. Available statistics show that U.S. companies, chambers of commerce, friendship groups, individuals and other sectors donated about 1.15 billion yuan ($162 million) in cash and 400 million yuan worth of supplies to China.

Clearly, the relationship between China and the United States is as much about ties between the two societies and peoples as it is between the two governments. The strong, time-honored friendship of the people has always been an inherent driving influence for a stable bilateral relationship.

Fighting COVID-19 should naturally be a rallying point for China and the United States. However, there are those who attempt to turn it into a point of conflict. While the U.S. makes generally positive gestures, some in the country are moving against the trend of history and making jarring noises. They accuse China of covering up. They advocate a further crackdown on Huawei. They spread rumors about China’s so-called manipulation of the World Health Organization. They demand that China be held responsible for the outbreak.

Even after the two presidents’ phone call, some senior U.S. officials still cling to groundlessly defaming China. Some claim, in an attempt to conceal the inefficiency of their own response to the virus, that the U.S. provided the world with far greater assistance than China did. Some take the outbreak as a chance to pit the Communist Party of China against the Chinese people and to sell the preposterous notion that the virus can help promote economic decoupling and triggers a new Cold War. All of this is nothing but ill-intended disinformation designed to mislead the public.

Blaming China for the crisis or demanding that China take medication for someone else’s illness is as pointless as what the old Chinese saying describes as “trying to catch fish in a tree.” Those who scapegoat China will hurt themselves as well.

Some attempt to exploit the situation for political or economic gain and even seek decoupling of the two peoples, file groundless lawsuits against China or otherwise hold China accountable. They suggest that while a more positive attitude is necessary to get Chinese help at the moment, they will probably “sort things out” with China when the epidemic is over. This is an unhealthy, immoral mindset. A daydream at best, it threatens to undermine the trust between countries in fighting the virus. It runs counter to a humanitarian ethos and does a disservice to the common interests of the two peoples.

This “political virus” is more toxic and more damaging than the microorganism. It warrants our utmost vigilance. 

In the face of this deadly outbreak, China is acting as a major country with vision. 

The response of the Chinese government has been commended widely both at home and abroad. China has done its utmost and made enormous sacrifices to defeat the outbreak. It has stood firmly by other countries caught by the outbreak, and provided assistance to the best of its ability. It has offered valuable experience, technical and material support to bolster the global response. With all this, China has demonstrated how a major country lives up to its moral responsibility.

Faced with defamation, smears and attacks, China has chosen to respond with dignity, reason and discipline, and presents the real picture. When it comes to China-U.S. cooperation, there are principles to uphold. China does not pick fights, but it will not hesitate to respond should provocation come its way. On issues of major principles, we hold our ground. We will never budge. 

The virus respects no borders. The pandemic is a fresh reminder that mankind is a community with a shared future and that all rise and fall together. 

No one is an island. No country can walk alone. Cooperation is the only way for China and the U.S. to get through these challenging times. Looking at China-U.S. relations through the lens of a community with a shared future for mankind, we see more clearly that cooperation is the only right choice. The cause of world peace and prosperity will only advance. 

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