Friday, 30 October, 2020

Ways to strengthen cooperation between China and neighboring countries to fight COVID-19


By Tianyuan Zhe, Yuchun Song and Sen Lu

A sudden COVID-19 epidemic has swept across the world, affecting many countries for a long time. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest test the United Nations has faced since it was founded. The pandemic has had a profound and long-term impact on the entire human society. It is a combination of an epidemic that has not happened to a century and a major change that has not happened to a century. In the face of the new situation, China's interaction with the international system should gradually shift from "changing ourselves and influencing the world" to "change ourselves and shape the world". This is a requirement for realizing the “Chinese Dream” and is also a burden on China as a member of international system. In this case, how China can strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries is very important.

On September 23, 2020, President Xi Jinping put forward the proposal to build a new type of international relations and a community of shared future for mankind at the general debate of the seventy-fifth session of the United Nations general assembly. This proposition tells us that under the COVID-19 situation, international relations are undergoing profound changes. In particular, relations with neighboring countries are of vital importance. The policy of building an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood has not changed. China will never do a beggar-thy-neighbor thing. Because mankind is a community with a shared future, no country can be immune from the pandemic. After the epidemic has been brought basically under control, China has not and will not pursue unilateralism behind closed doors. We will continue to follow the path of multilateralism, continue to advance the "One Belt And One Road" initiative, and work with neighboring countries to fight the epidemic and achieve common development.

The military is an extension of political relations. Recently, some countries have been making trouble in the waters to the south and east of China and along the western border. These seem to be military, but in fact they are political. We need to prevent some countries from diverting domestic conflicts with military actions, and make full use of political wisdom to solve military issues around China, so as to further to strengthen political mutual trust in the epidemic.

China has done a good job of political mutual trust. President Xi Jinping has been communicating frequently with other countries to build friendship and trust, and to clarify China's political stance of jointly fighting COVID-19. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghei, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other leaders have visited many countries to strengthen neighborhood diplomacy and jointly respond to COVID-19, thus gaining trust from many countries.

In the face of the pandemic, only by strengthening cooperation in its prevention can we overcome the crisis. China is surrounded by Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia adjacent, the border is long, epidemic prevention workload is very big. However, China has matured experience in pandemic prevention and can share it with neighboring countries. China has abundant resources for epidemic prevention. Some of them can be provided for free, but most of them need to be done in commercial forms. At the same time, we should continue to strictly prevent and control the epidemic at home and abroad, and test and isolate those who enter China from overseas to prevent another large-scale outbreak of the deadly virus at home. Mankind is a community with a shared future. If any country is hit by a severe epidemic, we must not be indifferent to it. Otherwise, our stability and peace and the whole world will be affected in the end. We need to work together with our neighbors to overcome COVID-19. Once the pandemic is under control, the countries will be safer. For example, some time ago, stowaways from Myanmar were confirmed as COVID-19, and Ruili city in Yunnan province was in an emergency, which led to the emergency closure of Ruili city. The whole city residents were tested for nuclei acid. This tells us the importance of cooperation between countries in epidemic prevention. We should not only strengthen border prevention and control, but also strengthen in-depth cooperation with our neighbors in the field of health. China has pledged to give priority to Mekong countries, including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Pakistan, after China has developed COVID-19 vaccine. We are safer when our neighbors are safe.

Despite the ferocity of the global epidemic, we live in a global village that is interconnected with all aspects, not to mention the economy. COVID-19 is an opportunity for international cooperation rather than an obstacle, and China has a great role to play in the regional economy.

First, we must provide to epidemic prevention materials and reduce or cancel part of our debts. Our country has set an example to this regard and has been recognized by many countries. The second is to promote “double circulation” in the “external circulation". Economic globalization forms the global supply chain. As a result of the impact of the epidemic, some products cannot be normally carried out as the traditional import and export business but they can use cross-border e-commerce platform for cross-border online shopping. For example, if Yunnan wants to export Buddhist products to Vietnam, goods can be found on international shopping websites such as Lazada, SHOPEE and Tiki, and overseas consumers can place their own orders, which will be followed by safe logistics. Of course, high-risk commodities such as seafood, river food and wildlife should be avoided during the current outbreak to prevent the spread of the virus through these animals. During the new crown disease, we must export better quality products to the surrounding areas, and promote the leading technology to the outside world. We must not take advantage of the epidemic in surrounding countries to carry out low-quality economic activities. Only when we have established a good reputation during the epidemic and raised our country’s good image in the minds of neighboring countries can we make our country more friendly to neighboring countries, and at the same time maintain our country’s deterrent power in strategy, maintaining regional stability and peace.

The report on the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) pointed out that “we should strengthen cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the rest of the world, give priority to our own interests, take into account all aspects of each other... promote the building of international communication capacity, and tell the Chinese story well”, stressing the importance of international cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Under the new crown epidemic, face-to-face communication between us and our neighbors have been reduced, but human communication is indispensable and even more important. It is recommended that international conferences, cross-border cultural salons and online campaigns with national characteristics be organized using the Internet platform to enhance understanding of the customs and cultures of countries around the world, which will also help to understand the underlying causes of different responses to the epidemic, to better conduct international activities. For the neighboring countries, we can make use of the similar places in the cultures of our country and these countries to carry on the humanistic spirit exchange under the epidemic situation, establish the common faith of fighting against the epidemic situation, go hand in hand, and walk through the difficulties of the new global epidemic situation together.

(Zhe,Song  and Sen Lu are scholars at Yunnan University)


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