China's Experience Deserves Global Attention

2020-03-21 Wang Fan

Wang Fan,Vice President  of China Foreign Affairs University, China Forum Expert

Within about a month of the coronavirus outbreak in China, the number of infections began dropping steadily, and the epidemic has basically been brought under control. Meanwhile, it’s spreading rapidly in the rest of the world, with the number of newly confirmed infections nine times that of China in only a week’s time.

China has since turned from a high-risk area into a relatively safe place. It is a miracle in global public health history that it so swiftly brought an epidemic that has so far has infected nearly 80,000 people under control — about a month — and is is the process of resuming work and production.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, based on his personal experience in China, has praised the country’s epidemic prevention and control effort as a fine example of epidemic containment for public health.

In its efforts, China has made sacrifices, raised its efficiency, maintained transparency, assumed responsibility and shared experience.

Those experiences are especially worth noting: 

1. Nationwide mobilization and coordination

Medical resources from all provinces and municipalities across the country were mobilized, with the entire nation rushing to help Wuhan and Hubei province. As a result, the problem of inadequate medical resources in the Hubei region was rapidly solved.

The China experience proves it’s important to concentrate optimal resources on troubleshooting in the worst-hit areas.The Chinese authorities simultaneously cut off sources of infection and acted to lock down cities and cut off transportation channels.

Actions must be taken under integrated plans with an eye on the overall picture, and responses must be coordinated, rather than each area or community acting on its own.

China’s capacity for nationwide mobilization has won acclaim worldwide. In the process of coping with the epidemic, extraordinary accomplishments cannot be made without all-around, highly efficient, collective mobilization and policies for implementation. 

2. Extra vigilance, no relaxation or neglect

There is no denying that China’s understanding of this unprecedented virus required some time and a process in the beginning. There were questions about the sources of infection, routes of spread and potential impacts, which is why there were initial policy inconsistencies. In addition, countermeasures were not sufficiently resolute.

This is also one of the lessons to be learned. China has had candid exchanges with relevant institutions worldwide with absolutely no reservations, and reminded  other countries to pay sufficient attention, spare no effort from the beginning and avoid neglect or opportunistic approaches to prevent the epidemic from getting out of control.

There is no exception in the face of the virus, and no privileged zone that can claim immunity. All responses of that sort — especially the “onlooker” mentality — are dangerous. 

3. Evaluate the epidemic in a scientific manner, and proceed from reality to find an optimal approach

In such a process, China has demonstrated high transparency, as well as full scientific and democratic communication in decision-making.

Chinese medical workers on the front lines in Wuhan have conducted professional exchanges on a daily basis in a variety of ways, including online video links. They have continually improved their treatment regimes. In a matter of four weeks, the treatment brochure compiled by the National Health Commission of China has seen its seventh edition and has been shared worldwide. Iran translated the latest edition of the brochure into Persian.

A more important lesson is that there must be full respect for science, facts, rational discussion and scientific decision-making.

It is precisely in such an atmosphere that both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine have each been given full play according to its their own characteristics and advantages, resulting in mutual complementarity and enhancement in treatment of the disease. 

4. Whole-society mobilization and participation is key to winning the fight in a short period

During its campaign to contain the epidemic, China has shown full confidence in the roles of front-line medical workers, leaving sufficient room for their creative potential. In the meantime, it fully mobilized grassroots communities, optimizing the division of work at different levels and implementing policies in a point-to-point, person-to-person manner that left no blind spot.

Supplies and assistance are being delivered in various ways. Under the most strict community management regimes, the job can’t be done without community workers and volunteers. 

5. Strike a sound balance between epidemic containment and economic recovery

This is actually the biggest challenge in epidemic control. It is a critical test of the authorities’ governance capacity to contain an epidemic’s spread while reducing economic losses to the minimum.

Coastal Zhejiang province has set a fine example. By means of big data analysis, it classified those who would resume work based on broad health conditions and identified their trajectory of movement, dispatched charter planes and trains to bring them back to places of work and guaranteed both their health and their jobs. More than 90 percent of factories and institutions in Zhejiang and other provinces and regions have resumed production. 

China is willing to share all such lessons learned from its own anti-epidemic campaign without reservation and hopes other countries will make similarly effective moves that suit their own national conditions to deal with the epidemic and win the battle through joint efforts.

The article was first published on the website of China Focus.