By Wang Wen Source:Global Times Published: 2020-03-02
When the US reported its first case of the novel coronavirus late last month, I thought a lot about how Chinese elites would react if a large outbreak takes place in the US. It's a hypothetic question and I hope every one of my American friends remain safe.
If there is a large-scale coronavirus outbreak in the US, some Chinese government agencies will come to me for advice. They will want to know how US think tanks will view the epidemic? How should China respond to an outbreak in the US? My suggestion would be to share China's virus fight experience and medical data collected over the past two months to help defeat the virus and enhance the American public's understanding of China. I believe this would go a long way in bringing bilateral ties back on the right track, after they all but spiraled out of control over the past two years.
I believe most Chinese think tanks would try to strengthen China-US cooperation by seizing the opportunities presented by the epidemic. The Chinese government will not recall diplomats based in the US.
Similarly, the Chinese public, officials and elites will not make public statements such as, "The outbreak of the epidemic in the US will help China's manufacturing prosper," or "The US is the incubator of virus," or "The coronavirus is a biochemical weapon released from a laboratory in Washington," or "The US is the sick man of America," or "Let the virus rampage through the ranks of the Republicans," or "A fragile America." The Chinese people will not beat or insult Americans they encounter on the street.
Regrettably, all the above-mentioned hyperbole and scenarios occurred in the US when China was the first to suffer from a large-scale outbreak of the virus. The US was the first major power to announce a highest-level warning telling citizens not to travel to China. It was the first to evacuate diplomats from China, and the first to deny entry of non-US citizens travelling from China. Americans are routinely seen insulting Asians - no matter their nationality - in public places.
Sometimes US public opinion has a memory like a sieve, so I have to repeat these remarks: On January 30, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the epidemic in China will help "accelerate the return of jobs to North America." On January 31, US Senator Tom Cotton suggested that the coronavirus originated in a "biosafety level-four super laboratory" in Wuhan. On February 3, the Wall Street Journal published a commentary written by US think tank scholar Walter Russell Mead entitled "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia." On February 17, "Fragile China" was highlighted in the cover story of Bloomberg Businessweek. And White House advisor Peter Navarro once called China a "disease incubator."
As for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, I'm unwilling to reiterate his anti-China remarks. Many Chinese see him as a truly negative character. Remembering his words might make me hate the US and I am loath to do that.
I hope an epidemic won't break out in the US. Over the past two months, many of my friends and relatives have been on the frontlines fighting the coronavirus in China. With the number of deaths still rising, I continue to be extremely worried. Behind every statistic hides a family's pain and tears.
I do wish US elites would be more empathetic and far less hypocritical. They need to stop applying a double standard over the virtues of democracy, freedom and human rights which they have always respected. In the face of disasters, pandemics, and climate changes, no country or family can survive on its own - China, the US, and all other countries need to join hands and stop focusing only on their self-interests.
US elites who don't believe in international cooperation, should at least stop cursing, sneering, and belittling people who are suffering. Is that really too much to expect; too big of a request?
The Chinese government and people are pursuing democracy, freedom and human rights on a path they believe is correct. No one can stop us, nor change our course. More importantly, the Chinese people have reached the realization that we must build a community of a shared future for all.
I would like to express my appreciation to Americans and US companies who have shown solidarity with the people of China and provided humanitarian supplies and made donations to China. I believe Chinese people and companies will return the favor if a large-scale outbreak strikes the US.
The times are changing. Let's toss narrow-minded hurtful rhetoric in the garbage heap of history. If there is an upside to the novel coronavirus epidemic, it could be to inspire and create new opportunities for cooperation between China and the US.
The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, at Renmin University of China and executive director of China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center. His new book Great Power's Long March Road was launched recently.