As the world is experiencing a major health crisis, many voices have raised to challenge globalization and international trade. Supporters of populism and protectionism are already asking for less trade, and are arguing that this could have prevented the spread of Covid-19. This is obviously not the solution. This global epidemic, which first hit China hard, is now spreading across all continents, and can only be stopped with stronger solidarity among nations.
The worst and the best of mankind
With Covid-19, we have witnessed how fragile our society was, with borders closing, stock exchanges crashing, airlines suspending their service, and tourism stopping, and above all, collapsing health systems that couldn’t cope with the epidemic. Only China was able to resist this appalling crisis, and subsequently offered its assistance to the international community.
During this epidemic, we have unfortunately seen the worst of humanity through manifestations of racism and discrimination against Asians, the selfishness of some rushing into supermarkets or disregarding safety instructions. We could also deplore an absence of solidarity between certain countries, which should have established truces to save lives.
But we have also appreciated the selflessness and solidarity that reigned around the world, first of all, among doctors, but also nurses, all hospital staff who continue to fight against this epidemic, until exhaustion, -we all have in mind these images of caregivers with the face marked by their mask-; and some gave their life. We can also only thank the companies that have changed their production to produce more masks or hydroalcoholic solution, as well as all the people who put their shoulder to the wheel by babysitting nurses’ children, or shopping for elderly neighbours. To all these people, we say thank you.
We must also thank China, which after having been hit hard by the epidemic, has shown unfailing generosity by bringing its expertise and offering its equipment to other nations. China then showed its responsibility as a great power.
More cooperation needed
All together we can, and will, come to defeat covid-19; we will have to find the right treatment, and the vaccine, which hopefully will not be used exclusively by one country, but be offered to the world. But don’t fool ourselves. After covid-19, we’ll probably face more epidemics again. Of course some will be tempted to turn inward, to close their borders, to denounce globalization, and therefore to increase fears. But it is not globalization that should be blamed, but the fact that this one is not complete. Of course, there have never been so many exchanges of capital, goods, and people, but this globalization is not fully achieved. Good practices and solidarity must also become global. This means that World Health Organization activities must be supported, and its budget must be increased to cope with the next pandemics. A few days ago, the Chinese president invited his French counterpart to work together to build a community of common health for mankind. Because make no mistake, after covid-19, we will again face other global health challenges, so we need to get prepared and increase international health cooperation.
In this crisis context, the “Belt and Road initiative” may become a major vector for health cooperation. The new Silk Road is not just a project to finance infrastructure and transportation. It is not only about developing trade in goods between China and the world. The “Belt and Road initiative” has a very strong human dimension with cultural and academic exchanges. Health is also an area covered by the Belt and Road initiative. In 2017, China committed to the World Health Organization to strengthen medical cooperation with “Belt and Road initiative” participating countries, by providing assistance in the treatment of tropical diseases such as malaria.
Furthermore, the “Healthy China 2030” program adopted by the Chinese government in 2016, which makes health a major priority for China, can also serve as an example for developing or developed countries, to refocus development on mankind.
Digitalization and the use of “big data”, that are encouraged in the “Belt and Road initiative”, have enabled China to better contain the epidemic in Hubei province. These digital solutions can also be shared worldwide in the framework of the “Belt and Road initiative”.
Pandemics have no homeland and affect all countries; they kill and impoverish. Only with more solidarity can we cope with these health disasters. The “Belt and Road initiative” is a way to fight covid-19 and other health threats more effectively, by increasing cooperation and sharing our solutions. It is not possible to stop globalization, but the “Belt and Road initiative” can better shape it and bring health and prosperity to all continents. Thus united, we will be stronger!
Dr. Sebastien Goulard, coordinator of OBOReurope in association with Mr. Aliou Sissoko, director of “Club des Amis de la Chine“.