CPH POST yesterday spoke to Feng Tie, the Chinese ambassador to Denmark, to learn about how his country is coping with the Coronavirus.
The new infection rate of the coronavirus in China has slowed down. Do you have confidence that you can bring a complete end to this epidemic?
Indeed, the situation in China has been stabilising. New infections have plummeted to their lowest level. On March 17, there were only 13 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection, and just 11 deaths were reported on the Chinese mainland. Some 922 patients were discharged from hospitals after recovering, while the number of severe cases decreased by 208. So far, a total of 69601 people have recovered. The new daily infection rate in the Hubei province continues on a downward trend. Hospitals overwhelmed by patients several weeks ago now have empty beds. Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, has closed all of its 16 public facility-turned temporary hospitals. According to the president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, the peak of the epidemic in China has passed. The spread of the coronavirus has been basically curbed. But we must keep cool-headed because our fight against the virus is still at a critical stage. We have to guard against the risk of imported cases and a resurgence of the virus. There is a lot to do to wipe out the epidemic completely.
What measures have you taken in China that you deem effective?
President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan and strongly boosted the morale of the medical workers on the front-line, community workers, volunteers, public servants and all residents of the city in their battle against the epidemic. Under his leadership, we have mobilised resources across the whole country and rolled out the most aggressive and strict containment measures in history. The city of Wuhan has been locked down. More than 330 medical teams with a total of 41,600 doctors and nurses from all over China rushed to Hubei with tons of vital supplies. Two field hospitals with over 2,500 beds in total were built in just 10 days and 16 large public facilities were turned into temporary shelter hospitals.
The Chinese people have given strong support to the governmental measures. There are a lot of moving stories of medical workers, volunteers and many others who have battled the virus bravely, demonstrating extraordinary selflessness, stoicism and dedication. The people of Wuhan have complied to the strictest isolation measures and have stayed at home for over two months now. The progress we have made could not have been achieved without the sacrifice, solidarity and perseverance of these heroic people.
Chinese scientists and public health experts raced against time and succeeded in quickly isolating the causative virus, establishing diagnostic tools, and determining key transmission parameters. Their efforts have provided the important basis for China’s response. In treatment, we have supplemented Western medicine with traditional Chinese herbal medicine. To handle such a large scale outbreak, we have also resorted to online platforms for the dissemination of medical knowledge and 5G platforms to support rural response operations.
All in all, the leadership and mobilisation, support of the people, and scientific approach have been key to China’s endeavour and success in dealing with the coronavirus. China’s aggressive measures have slowed the spread of the virus and bought extra time for other countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres described China’s sacrifice in containing the spread of the virus as a great contribution to all mankind.
Was there a cover-up and lack of transparency in China’s handling of the outbreak?
The Chinese government has responded quickly and effectively, mobilising tremendous resources in the fight against this epidemic. However, that does not mean that everything has been perfect. This is a unknown new virus and, therefore, it took some time to understand what was going on. Moreover, Wuhan is a metropolis of over 11 million people, which is more than double the population of Denmark, and the decision to lock it down was not easy.
China has been transparent while taking on the outbreak. Information has been shared with the international community, such as the genetic sequence of the new virus found by Chinese scientists. A team of international experts organised by WHO made an investigative tour of five cities in China including Wuhan. They visited hospitals, laboratories, wet markets, train stations and local government offices. The team also reviewed the massive data that Chinese scientists had compiled. Its report released after the visit said that “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic” and that “this decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.”
What do you think of Denmark’s measures in the fight against the coronavirus? Do you think China’s method is applicable to other countries
The WHO has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and confirmed cases are rising across the world. Unfortunately Europe now is the epicenter and Denmark is facing a huge challenge. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has sent a message of sympathy to the Danish Government and the Danish people. Denmark has taken resolute measures to contain the spread of the virus. I hope these measures will be effective. Different countries face different situations and there can be various responses. But some of China’s experience may be useful to other countries.
The world is a global village and a community of common destiny. No country is completely safe until other countries are safe. This outbreak is a severe test for the whole world. China is ready to work with the international community to address this unprecedented challenge. President Xi Jinping had exchanged views with leaders of several countries. China has donated US$20 million to the WHO. Chinese doctors have arrived in Rome with tons of medical supplies to help Italy. China has also sent medical teams to Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. Chinese medical experts have shared their experience at more than 20 expert seminars and remote meetings and with a number of countries as well as international organisations, including the EU. Tomorrow, China will organize an experience-sharing video conference which will be attended by Chinese and European scientists, including those from Denmark. When China was under great pressure in previous months, many countries gave us precious help. Now China is ready to do all we can to help those in need.
Our common enemy is the coronavirus. It is time to work together in combating this pandemic instead of pointing fingers or jumping at the opportunity to make ideological attacks at China.
Is China going to have an economic recession that will plunge the whole world into a crisis?
The Chinese economy has suffered from the epidemic, but I believe its impact is temporary and generally manageable. Despite the short-term economic repercussions, the epidemic has not undermined the fundamentals of China’s steady and long-term sound economic development. As the world’s second-largest economy, China has much leeway in sustaining its economic growth. With a rich policy toolkit, the government has plenty of room to manoeuvre. Now China is battling on two fronts: containing the spread of virus and revitalising the economy. Businesses in China have started to reopen, and they have ramped up production while taking measures to prevent infections at the workplace. More than 90 percent of industrial companies in several major provinces have resumed production. In the petrochemical, telecommunications, electricity and transport industries, over 95 percent of the companies have resumed operations. Employees of more than 80 percent of the foreign enterprises in China have returned to work. China’s economy is resilient and we are confident that the Chinese economy will rebound either in the second quarter or second half of this year.
In the past few weeks, we have seen financial markets hit hard, global supply chains disrupted, and investment and consumer demand plunged. There is a real risk of a global recession. However, when the strong measures of various countries against the pandemic work, the downturn will be reversed. This is a difficult time. But I am sure, with solidarity, the right decisions and concerted efforts, we will tough it out and prevail.