Zhang Ming, Head of the Chinese Mission to the European Union, delivers a keynote speech at a meeting releasing Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 in Brussels, Belgium, March 3, 2020.
This spring is never going to be the same again. The explosive spread of COVID-19 caught the world by surprise, and it couldn’t show more clearly just how closely connected we are. As the pandemic looms large, China and the EU stand together in solidarity.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. When China’s fight against the outbreak was in a most difficult stage, the EU, its member states and their citizens extended a warm and helping hand, for which China is deeply grateful. As the situation is getting more serious in Europe, we share your worries and woes as our own and extend our deep sympathies.
We are also providing support in the best way we could, despite China’s own high demand for medical supplies at home and production challenges. The Chinese central government has provided to the EU and its member states medical protective equipment in large quantities, including respirators, face masks, goggles, protective gowns, and ventilators.
Chinese local governments, charity organizations and business communities are also making contributions through various channels, so are the Chinese communities living in Europe. Former Italian Prime Minister and former President of the European Commission Romano Prodi said to China, “Your donation is a signal of friendship and solidarity that we will never forget. I do hope that the world will understand that we are really in the same boat.”
In fighting the virus, China has made huge sacrifices and gained valuable experience. Such experience is a common asset, which we hope, could help save other countries from further sacrifices. Chinese and European health specialists are working closely together, both online and on the ground. The two sides share good practices via video-conferences.
Chinese medical teams are fighting the pandemic shoulder to shoulder with their European colleagues in Italy and other countries, offering their experience and expertise. Their actions very much appreciated, simple are their words: “We are doctors. It’s our duty to help defend people against illness. And we’ll go wherever we are needed.” They added, “Italy was among the first to send a rescue team to China’s Sichuan Province in the wake of a massive earthquake in 2008. It’s no coincidence that China’s first medical team to Italy is mostly composed of doctors from Sichuan.”
That’s exactly why we opt for cooperation. Viruses do not discriminate on the basis of race or nationality. The best way to help oneself is to help others. Any attempt to put a Chinese or European label on the coronavirus is to despise science and life. Our fight against the virus has nothing to do with social system or geopolitics. To politicize the outbreak or view China’s efforts with suspicion is nothing but parochial and detrimental. When people’s lives and health are at stake, the only right thing to do is to put politics and prejudice aside and join the global fight against the virus.
The response to the outbreak is like a mirror, which well reflects that China-EU relations are essentially about cooperation and partnership. With well and long established dialogue mechanisms, China and the EU are stepping up cooperation on diagnostics, treatment, pharmaceutical and vaccine development, in addition to regular exchanges of information and expertise. We want to join hands to fight and defeat the pandemic.
The mirror also reflects the global significance of China-EU relations. Both supporting and upholding multilateralism, China and the EU share the belief that, in face of global challenges at a trying time, it is important to rise to the occasion together rather than blame others, pass the buck or adopt beggar-thy-neighbor policies. The G20 special summit on COVID19 is about to be held. China and the EU need to work together to champion and facilitate international solidarity and cooperation in strengthening the weak links and seeking a long term solution to defend global health security.
When the threat of COVID-19 looms large, trust, especially a high-level of trust between the government and citizens, has underpinned China’s impressive response. By the same token, only trust will help free our minds of undue concerns and make international cooperation possible. And only trust and solidarity will give us greater strength to fight and prevail over the pandemic.
The author is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU.