Editor’s note: China’s mobility in the COVID-19 fight is unprecedented in the world’s public health history. However, it is still depicted by the West as draconian. What’s behind deep-rooted racist sentiments against China? CGTN’s Liu Jianxi talked with Mario Cavolo, an author, speaker, artist, and entrepreneur, on these issues. The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
CGTN: Is racism against China a result of the “clash of civilizations”?
Cavolo: There are reports in almost every country of some unexpected individual incidents of people really xenophobically and bigotedly attacking some individual Chinese people that they see. This is part of human nature. This happens to people of all different kinds of ethnicity and all over the world for different reasons. And no matter what, education and compassion and love are the solution to these kinds of problems.
However, why towards Chinese? Because, again, the mainline Western media has been fomenting these attacks and creating the mindset in a lot of Western people who allow themselves to fall for this kind of ignorant and bigoted way of looking at people and targeting people. They’re to blame. They’re responsible because they influence the societies in that sense.
CGTN: How do you evaluate the Chinese government’s response to the virus?
Cavolo: The Chinese government’s response to the virus started off early with a local problem that was delayed a couple of weeks in Wuhan by local officials in a mistake. China is as equally upset about that as everyone, and is openly talking about and reporting about that.
The West then just focuses on that early local mistake instead of what immediately happened afterwards, which is this amazing, remarkable, unprecedented, broad and responsible on the part of the Chinese government that, in fact, no other government in the world could have done to execute such a broad and aggressive response. And then this gets reported in the Western media as draconian control of the people.
No, it’s not draconian control of the people. It’s extreme measures in the face of death and tragedy, not government conspiracy. And we’re all working together to protect ourselves from a very nasty virus. And our actions are even tested by the rest of the world. This is humanitarian efforts, not politics.
CGTN: How do you evaluate the international community’s response to China?
Cavolo: The international community’s response to support China has been wonderful. First of all, internationally, the official response from America, from the government, they just announced, for example, an additional 100 million U.S. dollars of donations to help fight the virus.
More importantly, here in China, us as foreigners, us as American people and American companies who made China our home for decades, we have all pulled together locally here inside China, and have raised over 204 million RMB in cash donations and an additional U.S.D cash donations in millions and donations of all kinds of related equipment and supplies to help.
President Trump wants to pass the buck – China is an easy target
Editor’s note: Dr. John Gong is a professor at the University of International Business and Economics and a research fellow at the Academy of China Open Economy Studies at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). The article reflects the author’s views, and not necessarily those of CGTN.
While deploring a significant amount of misinformation and disinformation circulating on the Internet, some of the high-ranking officials of the Trump administration are also fabricating blatant lies themselves, including President Trump as well. During a TV interview a few days ago his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo established a bogus connection between China’s retaliatory measure to revoke several journalist licenses of five U.S. media outlets and alleged attempts to thwart COVID-19 news coverage. President Trump stepped it up a notch yesterday during a press conference by simply making up things out of the blue without even doing any proper homework.
For days he has been pounded by journalists for his repeated references to the so-called “Chinese virus.” When asked this question again on Saturday, he first said that China could have told the U.S. what is happening in Wuhan “three or four months earlier” and later changed it to “two or three months earlier.” Regardless of what is really the correct time frame on his mind, we know that the U.S. government was first officially notified of the coronavirus situation in Wuhan on January 3, which was disclosed by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. So Trump is basically suggesting that COVID-19 was already spreading wildly in Wuhan in October or early November.
Trump’s steadfast referencing to the “Chinese virus” serves one single purpose. That is to blame someone or something in order to provide cover for his own incompetence in quickly containing the outbreak back in February. In many instances of his past, the scapegoat is usually something foreign. China is an easy target for two reasons.
First, he is betting on the so-called China cover-up theory. It might be true that, but still debatable whether, China was indeed caught off guard with an inadequate response initially in January, which is actually not unusual as we have witnessed the same unfolding in South Korea, in Italy and in other European countries.
But China regrouped and rebounded with a vengeance, to the extent of totally eradicating this vicious virus so far. We as a nation have been clean with no new domestic infections for three consecutive days. But regardless of what could have been done better by the Chinese government here, buying a few more days of time at most in America would not have had any real impact in terms of significantly rewriting the COVID-19 spread situation in the U.S. by now.
What is happening in the U.S. right now is entirely the result of the Trump Administration’s ineptitude and his totally misleading statements to fool the American public for political expediency, such as his calling of “corona flu” and his comment that “it will disappear one day like a miracle”, etc.
The second reason that Trump would not give up using the term the “Chinese virus” is that he has already determined that the virus originated in China, albeit with absolutely no training whatsoever in epidemiology. Trump has so many “Nobody-knows-xxx-better-than-I-do” statements on his back that he is not shy about smattering into things he has absolutely no clue.
But in the realm of epidemiology, the origin of a virus really doesn’t matter, as it could have broken out anywhere of the globe being a human problem. And that is precisely the reason why the WHO has come up with the name COVID-19 to avoid any racial or territorial stigma by association.
But even speaking of the COVID-19’s origin, there seems no definitive conclusions yet, and furthermore, there might still be multiple sources. Some lethal pandemics in history were never traced clear of its origin in fact. For example, scientists are still not certain where the Spanish flu originated from. France, China and Britain have all been suggested as the potential birthplace, as has the U.S. as a matter of fact, where the first known case was reported at a military base in Kansas on March 11, 1918.
Incidentally, America’s media outlet National Public Radio (NPR) did an interview with Dr. Giuseppe Remuzzi in Italy, who is the co-author of a recent paper about COVID-19 in The Lancet. Here is something interesting that Remuzzi said when asked about why Italy was caught off guard when the virus outbreak was revealed on February 21:
they remember having seen very strange pneumonias, very severe, particularly in
old people in December and even in November. It means that the virus was circulating
at least in Lombardy before we were aware of the outbreak in China.”
Spotlight: U.S. politicians’ use of “Chinese virus” widely condemned
“Bigotry against people of Asian descent is unacceptable, un-American, & harmful to our COVID-19 response efforts,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.
NEW YORK/ISLAMABAD, March 19 (Xinhua) — The recent re-labeling of the novel coronavirus with xenophobic undertones by some U.S. politicians to stigmatize China has drawn widespread criticism.
As the international community works together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, a few American politicians are shifting blame to China for the virus’ spread by recasting it as a “Chinese virus” or “foreign virus.”
Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, warned on Wednesday against using the phrase “Chinese virus,” saying that “Viruses know no borders, and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank.”
“So it’s really important we be careful in the language we use,” Ryan said at a news conference in Geneva, giving an example of the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009.
The pandemic “originated in North America and we didn’t call it the North American flu,” he said, calling for solidarity and joint efforts of all countries.
Ryan was echoed by co-founder of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates, who wrote on Wednesday in an Ask Me Anything session on the American social news platform Reddit that “we should not call this the Chinese virus.”
The tally of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 pandemic has reached over 220,000 and spans at least 160 countries and regions, according to the latest statistics from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
With the world facing an escalating challenge from the disease, “it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy,” the WHO wrote on its Twitter feed on Wednesday.
- S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday refuted the White House’s racist remarks on Twitter, saying that “coronavirus does not discriminate.”
“Bigotry against people of Asian descent is unacceptable, un-American, & harmful to our COVID-19 response efforts,” the Massachusetts lawmaker wrote.
- S. Representative Lois Frankel said on Twitter Wednesday that she was “disappointed, but unsurprised” at the White House’s decision to use xenophobic language during this global pandemic.
She urged the government to promote international cooperation instead of racism to combat the disease.
Public Policy Committee Chairman of the Committee of 100 Charlie Woo said in a statement that any attempt to ascribe the virus to one culture, ethnicity or country can only hinder the global effort to combat the epidemic.
“This crisis requires science, facts and clear language, not fear-mongering, finger-pointing and xenophobia by our public servants,” the statement said, quoted by the New York Times.
John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a non-profit legal aid organization, told NBC Asian America that the U.S. administration’s words could have negative repercussions.
The usage of such racist terms has “led to a noticeable incline in hate incidents that we are seeing,” Yang was quoted by the NBC report. “I do think that there is a correlation,” he added.
“Rather than making mockery of the Chinese nation or calling the virus ‘made in China’, the world must learn from the miraculous measures China has adopted to defeat this invisible enemy,” said Yasir Masood, former director of media and publications at the Center of Excellence of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The Pakistani political and international relations analyst believed that such smearing tactics against China or any other country in these depressing times are not conducive to global harmony.
Epidemics have taken millions of lives throughout history and can wreak havoc at a moment’s notice, Masoon said, adding “epidemics and natural disasters have no boundaries and they do not announce their arrival.”
China has achieved great success in its fight against COVID-19, and now it is extending help to other countries to defeat this pandemic, he said.
“In this difficult time of confusion and dismay, the world must work collaboratively to end this pandemic rather than tossing political rhetoric,” he added.
Regarding the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan, the analyst said the country has a lot to learn from the exemplary steps taken by China to defeat the virus.
Masood, who was in China when the disease broke out in Wuhan, said the government’s efforts to raise awareness by calling on the public to be socially responsible to stem the virus’ spread is commendable.
“The sterilization of public places and collective quarantine were strictly adopted in the country and the suspected cases were taken care of,” he said.
Praising the Chinese
government and its people for their resilience, discipline, and unity during
the outbreak, he said China’s measures could be followed.
US spin on virus’ name condemned
Some US politicians attempting to politicize the novel coronavirus have come under fire as officials, scientists and experts on international relations warned that such stigmatization would undermine international solidarity in containing the pandemic.
The warning came after some senior US officials connected the virus with China. They include US President Donald Trump, who described the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” on social media and a White House media briefing, although Director Robert Redfield of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said using the word Chinese as a way to describe the coronavirus is wrong.
On Monday, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Beijing strongly opposes and condemns certain politicians’ slanderous stigmatization of China as it fights the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak.
Yang, who is also director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, said any attempt by the US to discredit China will not succeed and any act that undermines the interests of the country will be resolutely fought by the Chinese side.
During telephone conversations with the foreign ministers of Singapore, Russia and the Netherlands as well as Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment on Wednesday, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China strongly opposes labeling the virus with the name of a country as it is disgraceful, immoral and unfair.
Such a move will divide the international community, Wang said, adding that it does not help efforts to unite countries in the battle against the spread of the pandemic, nor will it contribute to the disease prevention and control efforts in the US.
The three foreign ministers also expressed their opposition to the stigmatization of China.
The World Health Organization gave the pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus the generic name COVID-19 on Feb 11 to avoid stigmatizing a country or particular group, choosing a name that doesn’t refer to a geographical location, animals, an individual or a group of people.
WHO officials have warned against calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”, saying that it could lead to racial profiling.
At a media briefing on COVID-19 at the headquarters of the United Nations body on Wednesday, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said: “It’s really important that we be careful in the language we use.
“The pandemic of influenza in 2009 originated in North America, and we didn’t call it the ‘North American flu’,” Ryan said. “So it’s important that we have the same approach when it comes to other viruses.”
“This is a time for solidarity, this is a time for facts, this is a time to move forward together, to fight this virus together. There is no blame in this,” he said.”All we need now is to identify the things we need to do to move forward quickly, with speed and to avoid any indication of ethnic or other associations with this virus.”
London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco, said references to the virus that causes COVID-19 as a “Chinese virus” are “offensive and counterproductive”.
“There is never an excuse for xenophobia. Coronavirus is a global pandemic that is affecting all of us, and it requires all of us to listen to public health experts and respond together,” Breed said in a statement.
Zhong Nanshan, the prominent Chinese expert on respiratory diseases, said at a news conference on Wednesday that although Wuhan, the hardest-hit Chinese city, first reported the outbreak, there is no evidence that the city is the source of the virus that caused COVID-19.
A lot more needs to be understood about COVID-19 and international cooperation is important in fields such as drug development, he said.
Scientists have discovered through clinical records and genetic tracing that the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan may not be the source of the virus after all, according to the journal Lancet and other follow-up studies.
The market might just serve as a jumping-off point where the virus emerged and began infecting a wider public, but who or what brought the virus to the market in the first place remained unknown, scientists noted.
The Foreign Ministry has reiterated on many occasions that China believes that the origin of the virus is a matter of science which requires a professional and science-based assessment.
Li Haidong, an international relations professor at China Foreign Affairs University, said that playing the blame game might help politicians divert public attention from their own lackluster response to the outbreak and alleviate social pressure in the short run, but people will eventually catch on.
“Those who are pointing fingers now will soon realize this pandemic is a common challenge that must be addressed through honest and constructive collaboration,” Li said.
John Ross, former director of economic and business policy for the mayor of London, said in an article that through the determined fight against the virus, China created a window of opportunity of almost two months for the rest of the world before the coronavirus began to significantly spread outside the nation, but this time was wasted.
Instead of learning the positive lessons of China’s ability to control the virus, the US government and the Western media engaged in anti-China propaganda, said Ross, a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China.
“The bitter truth is that people in the West now face a medical, human and economic disaster due in significant part to this anti-China propaganda,” he added.
What works against the virus?
Editor’s note: March 19 marked the first time that China has recorded zero new domestic cases of COVID-19 since the country implemented strict and sweeping quarantine measures to contain the spread of the virus. Decisive measures bring China one step closer to the end of the battle against the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, every country is now testing its own approach to beat this common enemy.
Sober up, Covid-19 respects no national borders, no social bounds, no political systems and no cultural values. It hits us just as hard. It levels the world.
Facing the pandemic, it is not what happened matters, it is how we respond.
For almost a month it infected thousands in Wuhan in a day, and every hospital bed was occupied, now empty beds and closed wards in the city. How did China make it?
It is nothing new, but it is worthy to know.
According to an initial WHO report, an infected person appears to spread it to an average of 2.6 people. After 10 generations of transmission, with each taking five or six days, that one initial case has spawned 3,500 in matter of days. And that is what the world is seeing.
What China did is to break the cycle by human intervention, the scale unprecedented in history. “Extreme”, “draconian” and “aggressive”, these are the words used to describe China’s response. Now people have come to terms with the new norm: lockdown.
Some people say, isn’t that a violation of individual rights? Actually the balance between individual rights and public safety is always an ever-changing equation. After 9/11, all the airports in the world began to impose draconian safety checks on passengers and people accepted it because we traded a little of our freedom for the greater good of the public.
China imposed the largest and most draconian quarantine in history. Factories shut, public transport stopped and people stayed indoors. By doing that, it flattened the curve, on one hand China avoided many millions of cases and tens of thousands of deaths. On the other, it stretched out the time and make the hospitals restaffed and less strained. This is exactly what Europe and America should know.
But public policy needs both ends to agree, the decision makers and the decision takers. Quarantine is indeed extreme and extremely restrictive. It needs the people in lockdown to be honest and cooperative. I think what the people of Wuhan did was exceptional. They had the courage, tenacity and resilience to stay housebound for days, weeks and months. Most viewed the quarantine as a civic duty. And that is why it worked.
Public health methods are universal. They either work or they don’t. We are all human beings. Our epidemiology is the same, but we have different economies, demographics and sociologies. Facing a global pandemic, every nation needs a new contract signed between its politicians, businesses and the public.
Desperate times ask desperate measures. This is a desperate time. And we should not put politics ahead of public health, now more than ever. The new coronavirus has been claimed by ideologues. Donald Trump said it justified tighter border control, Bernie Sanders linked it to free healthcare. In Britain, the health officials prefer a soft-handed approach while in Singapore every infection case is followed and dealt with. Bit by bit, every country is testing its methods through trial and error. Some paid a high price and some set a high bar.
We should all move ahead with humility, there is no decision without trade-offs, and most of all: there is nothing without skin in the game. And now the whole world has learnt or is learning to play.
Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai says U.S. started coronavirus blame game, refutes cover-up accusation
Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said it is Washington that first started the coronavirus blame game, as the war of words between the two giant economies continued.
It is “very harmful” for diplomats and journalists to speculate the origin of COVID-19, it is a job for the scientists, Cui said in an interview with AXIOS and HBO on March 17, calling on Washington’s politicians to stop spreading conspiracy theories.
The interview script was made public on March 23 on the website of the Chinese Embassy.
U.S. President Donald Trump called the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a “Chinese virus” for the first time on his Twitter account on March 16 and has repeated the rhetoric since then.
Speaking to reporters at a White House daily press briefing on March 18, Trump said there was nothing wrong with calling the coronavirus a “Chinese virus,” stressing that it had originated in China.
Trump’s comments came after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s tweet that suggested the U.S. army might have brought the virus to Wuhan in October 2019.
When was asked about spokesman Zhao’s words, Cui said he is not in the position to interpret Zhao’s words.
He said his position was “all along” that it is dangerous to spread rumors, referring to one interview he did in February 9 with CBS’s program “Face the Nation.”
In that interview, he responded to an assertion from Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas who said the coronavirus could have come from China’s biological warfare program. Cui said the accusation was “absolutely crazy.”
“Of course, there are all kinds of speculation and rumors,” he said. “There are people who are saying that these viruses are coming from some military lab, not of China, maybe in the United States. How can we believe all these crazy things?”
In the March 17 interview, Cui said the conspiracy “was first initiated [in the U.S.],” and insisted that certain politicians stop speculating as scientists would eventually discover the origin of the virus.
Cui firmly rejected accusations that the Chinese government tried to cover up the outbreak and stop people from getting information about people-to-people transmission in the early stages of the epidemic.
“It’s not a process of covering up… It is a process of discovering this new kind of virus, to do a good job in identifying the virus, know more about it, learn more about the routes of transmission and how to respond,” Cui said.
As soon as China deciphered important data, such as the genetic sequencing of the novel coronavirus, it shared “everything” with the World Health Organization, and alerted other countries, Cui said.
China imposed strict travel restrictions and quarantine measures across the country to contain the outbreak, he said, adding that with the “resolute and determined efforts, the number of cases in China is coming down significantly” in the past 55 days.
As of March 22, China’s Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, reported no new cases for the past five days. Meanwhile, 39 new cases were registered, all of which originating from abroad, official data showed.
When was asked about the deceased Dr. Li Wenliang, who tried to warn his colleagues about COVID-19 in late December and was later asked to sign a letter of admonition, Cui said information was distorted, as Dr. Li was consulting his colleagues about an unclear virus, not trying to alert the public.
“Somehow this piece of information got outside of his circle of fellow doctors and it certainly caused concern,” Cui said, adding that his case was still under investigation.
Two days after the interview with AXIOS, China’s National Supervisory Commission concluded Li’s investigation on March 19, saying local police had “issued improper instructions” and followed “irregular” law enforcement procedures regarding Dr. Li.
The Wuhan Public Security Bureau later admitted the “inappropriate handling” and made an official apology to his family.
The police also revoked the admonition letter, in which he was accused of “spreading rumors.”
What happens next?
Cui said China will make sure the infected cases are reduced to zero in the coming days and focus on developing drugs and vaccines.
China will continue to work with the WHO and help other countries hit by COVID-19, he added.
According to China’s Foreign Ministry, the country has offered assistance to 82 countries as well as the WHO and the African Union. These medical supplies included test kits, masks and protective clothing.
It has also sent medical experts to Iran, Iraq, Italy and Serbia to help local doctors to contain the outbreak.
Cui also praised the help China received from American companies. “We are also very grateful at the initial stage so many countries came to our help, including the American people, American businesses, American institutions, American specialists. Some of them came to China at a very early stage, some of them joined the WHO expert team.”
The ambassador said that China and the U.S. stood at a “critical juncture” and that efforts from both sides are needed to build a healthy bilateral relationship. Both countries have no alternative than cooperation with each other, he said.
The two countries should “reject any attempt to stir up confrontation or even start a new Cold War,” and both sides should develop a relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability, he stressed.