Meeting overall governance challenges (Part-1)

Zheng Guichu

China will defeat the epidemic and win the battle against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). That is for sure. The effectiveness, efficiency, responsiveness, scale and transparency showing the confidence, capacity, unity and determination of the Chinese Government and people will definitely bring about speedy and full victory over the epidemic.
Now, what warrants clear-eyed review is the long-term challenges to the very idea and approach of global governance.
The history of civilization is a history of struggle against diseases. The advancement of science and technology, along with international collaboration, has dramatically reduced the death tolls of pandemics in recent history, yet assumptions of having the upper-hand and control over viruses and the cyber era of the 21st century being immune to viruses, might turn out flat-out wrong. As we are developing and improving, so are viruses. The COVID-19 outbreak is again evidence that the specter of deadly epidemics still looms over us, and is ready to prove and assert its persistent existence.
Plus, in a globalized world, the spread of epidemics has unprecedentedly accelerated. Economic, political, social and security concerns have magnified both decision-makers’ and the public’s sensitivity to the outbreak of infectious diseases. A globalized world featuring more densely populated metropolitan areas with higher population mobility has strengthened viruses with higher fluidity, thereby posing even greater imminent risks to mankind.
Challenges ahead
Virus respects neither borders, nor nationalities or ethnicity. The outbreak of the epidemic has once again reminded us that every country and nation’s future is closely linked. Global governance and international coordination must be strengthened, with no delay.
Looking deep into the COVID-19 battle, we can see challenges still looming ahead, demanding wisdom, courage, openness, joint endeavors and concerted efforts from the whole world.
Challenge 1: common interests vs. political divergence
Could common good transcend political differences?
Since the outbreak, President Xi Jinping has called for confidence, unity, a science-based approach and targeted response for epidemic control efforts. The whole nation has rallied and adopted a string of unprecedented measures to contain and mitigate the epidemic. With Xi personally guiding and instructing the epidemic response, the government and the 1.4 billion people are united as one in fighting the outbreak. The most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures possible have been taken.
The government established a national framework of comprehensive, inter-agency response and cross-region medical supply, from the Central Government to local governments, and from urban to rural areas. Scientists and researchers isolated the first virus strain and developed the test reagent in less than seven days. Rallying more than 41,000 medical professionals and coordinating huge amounts of medical materials to reinforce the public health systems in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei Province has manifested the full functioning of the central and local governments, as well as the strong mobilization capability and efficiency of the logistics and resource allocation mechanism. Thousands of engineers and construction workers built two specialized hospitals equipped with 2,500 beds in less than 15 days. A precisely tailored system has been established to leave no patient unattended. These extraordinary measures are timely and swift, a conclusion of the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus after his visit to China. And this comprehensive battle is delivering substantial results, with the spread of the virus slowing down and the diagnosis and cure rates on a steady rise. Facts and data clearly show that China’s decisive response is both right and effective.As a responsible major country, China has from the start acted in an open and transparent manner in releasing relevant information to the world and seeking international cooperation to prevent the spread of the epidemic worldwide. Relevant data indicates that China has effectively curbed the spread of the outbreak beyond China’s borders, which is in sharp contrast to the case in 2009, when the H1N1 flu started in the United States and affected 214 countries and regions throughout the world.
In the battle, China has made tremendous contribution and sacrifice for global public health security. An article in Manila Times, China Deserves Credit, Not Criticism, for COVID-19 Handling, explicitly makes the point that “observing how fast the virus can spread should make one appreciate the measures the Chinese authorities have implemented to try to bring the epidemic under control. The number of COVID-19 cases here could have been astronomical; that the Philippines seems to have dodged the bullet can be attributed entirely to China’s early action, and our own authorities following China’s lead.”
China is not fighting alone. People around the world are standing by the side of China. In partnership with China, WHO has been closely monitoring the epidemic and coordinating a concerted international response. Governments across the world have extended a helping hand. Leaders of over 170 countries and 40-plus international organizations including the UN have written to Chinese leaders, and spoken in public to cheer for Wuhan and for China. The African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS issued statements expressing solidarity and sympathy.
International moral and material support is pouring in out of the belief that China’s combat on the frontline is the key to the victory of the global campaign against this epidemic. To support China is to defend international safety and assuage the concerns of the whole world. Such acts of international humanitarianism indicate that in times of global emergency, international solidarity and coordination, rather than extreme rhetoric and excessive reactions, are what is needed for the wellbeing of the international community. However, while China is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to curb the spread of the epidemic, some country is stigmatizing China and unrelentingly pointing the finger at China’s political system. It is doomed to fail again.
It is the Chinese political system that has rallied, harnessed and guided people to contain the spread of the virus. It is the efficiency, responsiveness and transparency of the Chinese political system, its merits and advantages, that have been and will be central and crucial to the final victory in the combat. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the choice of the Chinese people. It has already been proven successful in China and its strength has been well acknowledged in the combat against COVID-19.
Many world leaders have noted and the overwhelming majority of countries have clearly recognized that only in China and only under the leadership of Xi can there be such effective measures to put this sudden and fast spreading epidemic under control.
The truly unsettling message is the fact that a country is still holding a false proposition and presenting international relations as a “us or them” choice, reluctant to accept the rapid development and revitalization of China.
Political and ideological incompatibility is still a barrier, very much misleading and fatal to joint efforts. It deviates from the trend of global development, runs counter to norms and rules governing international relations, and impedes global governance. China respects the choices of Western countries and will draw on the experience of developed countries to work for shared prosperity. By the same token, the West also needs to respect the choices of the Chinese people, learn to eschew the belief in the superiority of its own civilization and abandon its prejudices and anxieties regarding China. -The Daily Mail-Beijing Review news exchange item