Department of History, Shanghai University
Yang Chen is Assistant Professor in the Department of History of Shanghai University’s College of Liberal Arts and Executive Director of the Center for Turkish Studies at Shanghai University. He has published two books about Turkey, and published several papers in the World Religious Culture, West Asia and Africa, Arab World Research, China Social Science Today and other journals. His main areas of research are Middle East Studies and Turkish Studies
April 4, 2020 is China’s Tomb-sweeping Day. On that day, in order to express the deep condolences of the martyrs and deceased compatriots who sacrificed their lives to fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, the Chinese State Council decided to hold a national mourning event. During this period, flags were flying at half-mast across the country and overseas Embassies and Consulates，and public entertainment has been suspended. On April 7, after two and half months of lockdown, Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province, allows transportation to resume. From now on, we can say that the COVID-19 epidemic has “basically been stopped” in China.
However, what we did not expect is that countries in Europe and North America have now become the areas undertaking the hardest hit, and the epidemic situation in Latin American and Africa is also beginning to spread. Up until now, the number of infected people in the world has reached 1.2 million, and the United States alone has reached 330,000, which is far from the peak and the turning point for the epidemic has not yet arrived.
When the epidemic broke out, Chinese scholars discussed three outcomes of COVID-19. The best result: the treatment of all patients will end within 2 to 4 weeks, and the epidemic situation in the whole country is controlled within 2 to 3 months. The worst result: the control fails and the coronavirus swept the world. The result between the best and the worst: the number of COVID-19 cases will increase in a controlled way, but to defeat this coronavirus may take a long time, possibly as long as half a year to a year. Judging from the current situation, China has not ushered in the best ending, but fortunately enough to avoid the worst ending.
However, the forecasters at that time only considered the situation in China, and did not expect that the coronavirus will spread the globe in such a short time. This shows the cunning of this coronavirus on the one hand, and on the other hand shows that the virus does not know the countries, nations, races, ages, genders, religions, and classes. There is no political correctness for the coronavirus. If it is not taken seriously, the world and the people will definitely suffer a lot. This is a “world virus” that requires governments and people of all the countries in the world to join hands, give up prejudice, strengthen cooperation, and unite together. Only in this way can we come through this great crisis.
China has made tremendous sacrifices in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Although the epidemic spread very fast in the beginning due to the insufficient knowledge of this virus, the initial slow responses of the local government, the inadequate supply of medical supplies, the late coverage of the news related to this virus, and the mass movement of people in Spring Festival, as the national consensus was reached, especially since the closure of Wuhan, the central government, local governments, social forces, and the broad masses of the people quickly united and adopted the policy of “early discovery, early reporting, early isolation, early diagnosis, early treatment” in order to “leave no one unattended, and leave on one untreated”.
Judging from China’s responses towards this COVID-19 epidemic, China not only has a “strong government” but also a “big society”. The central government dispatched a central guidance group led by Vice Prime Minister to guide the entire province to fight against epidemic disease. Other provinces and cities where the epidemic situation is not serious provided necessary assistance to Wuhan like medical teams, medical equipment, and daily necessities. Civilian forces like commonweal organization and guilds assisted in donating money and materials to Wuhan. The army also sent high-level medical experts to join in this battle. Police, community staffs, delivery guys, sanitation worker and etc. are all struggling on the front line of the anti-epidemic battlefield.
The 1.3 billion people are even more self-disciplined, preferring to change the traditional customs of paying a New Year’s call during Spring Festival, staying at home to ensure their own safety and the other people’s safety. Everyone has a belief that staying at home is to contribute to society and the country. One point needs to mention is that the medical expenses of each sick person are borne by the state. In fact, the treatment costs are very expensive. If there is no support of the government, the number of deaths may increase greatly.
This reflects the advantages of the Chinese system. In fact, China’s model is not the only useful and efficient method to control the COVID-19, many countries have adopted an anti-epidemic model different from China according to their national conditions and they also achieved success like Singapore and South Korea. On the contrary, some great powers not only show no sympathy towards China, but also accuse and stigmatize China constantly.
For example, there are politicians and medias in the United States who constantly call the novel coronavirus as “Wuhan virus” or “China virus”, attributing their unfavorable epidemic situation to China. When the COVID-19 just broke out, it sneered at China. When China controlled the epidemic, it accused China’s humanitarian aid abroad as “predatory aid”. When COVID-19 epidemic broke out in its own country, it accused China of being not transparent and providing falsifying data.
In fact, the epidemic can be controllable with some strict measures be taken. If you wash your hands frequently, wear masks in the crowd, keep one-meter distance from strangers, do the regular ventilation, separate meals, and reduce gathering, then there is high possibility that you are safe. But why are these medias still dissatisfied with China’s anti-epidemic achievements? I think they are debating for themselves, for their own choice. If things prove their attitudes, responses and countermeasures taken against the COVID-19 is wrong from the very beginning, this will affect their self-confidence even the confidence towards their identity and national system, which they could not bear.
Of course, the advantages of the Chinese system do not necessarily mean that the Western system is not good, but at least it highlights the limitations of the West. Compared with some Western countries’ accusations of China, more countries showed solidarity and friendship when China was in the most difficult times. For examples, the first 21 countries that provide assistance to China (South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Hungary, Belarus, Turkey, Iran, UAE, Algeria, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago) will be remembered by Chinese people in heart. Besides, many friendly people from all walks of life in a lot of countries have also provided support to China in fighting the epidemic in various ways. China is a country that knows how to be grateful. A true friend is a friend in need. The Chinese government and Chinese people will bear this in mind and will look for opportunities to do more humanitarian aid to the international community.
Under such a background of “Warm and Cold, We Share Together”, what should we human beings do as a whole?
First, we must unite together, abandon the parochial nationalism, embrace internationalism again, and reach consensus on strengthening international cooperation.
Second, believe in the power of science. To overcome the spread of the novel coronavirus not only requires the politicians’ responsibility, leadership, and mobilization, but more importantly, it needs to listen to the voice of scientists, take the facts as the criterion, and not spread rumors or conspiracy theory.
Third, respect common sense. In the west, wearing a mask has become a political issue. But the fact is that science has proven that wearing masks can really help reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19. It is full of ignorance and meaningless to show prejudice on wearing masks.
Fourth, recognize the vulnerability of humankind. In the past 1,000 years, humans have always felt that they can control or even transform nature, but this COVID-19 just exposed the insignificance and fragility of human beings. And it is urgent to change the mindset of human beings, change our current way of life and production, and show respect to the nature.
Viruses know no borders and are the common enemy of all mankind. Humans must overcome disputes and unite together in order to overcome the challenges brought about by this novel coronavirus epidemic.