Wali Zahid | IMC

In January this year, China, the 4,000-year-old civilization of inventions such as paper money, and discoveries like the compass and printing, and home to the Great Wall, a masterpiece of architecture and grandeur, was struck by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Although not as deadlier as its earlier counterparts, coronavirus (COVID-19) deeply affected the lives of millions of Chinese people, bringing a setback to the whole nation.

China took an immediate action to contain the coronavirus by locking down or quarantining major hubs and cities.

It was only because of China’s iron will, capability and governance system that most of the fatalities from the deadly virus could be contained to Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the epidemic, and Hubei province. 

When I spoke to head of Pakistan’s chief biological program expert, he praised China saying that only China was able to contain the outflow with decisiveness and without panic. No other nation on earth, not even US or Japan, could have done so. You can check flawed episode of Japan’s cruise ship quarantine.

The bigger challenge now is coronavirus’s international spread. Although at the writing of this piece in end-February, the deaths in other countries like Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and Hong Kong, are in early double digits, when compared with over 2,700 deaths in mainland China.

Had it been any other developed or developing country, the number of deaths and virus spread could have been worse. In case of an outbreak in a place like Pakistan, the loss could have been unimaginable. We did not even have testing facilities, much less the capability to combating the outbreak.

The same is the spirit of the overseas Chinese. While researching the face mask shortage around the globe, I found out that overseas Chinese were buying masks in their residence countries and sending these back to China because China needs 100’s of millions of masks daily. This was an amazing sense of national care and unity.

With the West and the developed world shutting its doors to Chinese travelers, Pakistan was the first country which resumed the flights to and from China, only suspending travel for three days. 

Pakistan, an all-weather friend and iron brother of China, stood strong with its eastern neighbour. We support China as they go through this incredibly saddening time, as we have done so before during devastating natural disasters, and as they have done so for us, uncountably so. 

The upper house of the Parliament of Pakistan, the Senate, unanimously passed a resolution expressing solidarity and support for the government of China and our Chinese brothers and sisters. 

Pakistan has donated medical supplies, along with sending in medical teams, to aid our Chinese brethren in helping contain this epidemic. Airports and the respective aviation authorities of Pakistan and China are working in close coordination to monitor passengers and create a safe environment for our citizens. This sends a strong signal to the international community that Pakistan stands strong with China. 

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It was because of these efforts that Lijian Zhao, spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China, acknowledged Pakistan role and said on 24 February: ‘After the outbreak, Pakistan was among the first countries to voice support and make donations to China. Its legislature passed resolutions in support of our efforts, the first move of this kind in the world. China will take good care of Pakistanis in China like our own citizens.’

With the West banning Chinese passengers and suspending flights to and from China, China faced incredible difficulties. This incurred heavy losses to the Chinese and their industries with manufacturing being reduced and even halted in some parts of the country, and international relations with some nations deteriorating.

The West also went ahead and racially labeled the scientific novel outbreak as “China virus”, which was not China’s response to the deadly SARS/H1N1 or MERS outbreaks. 

China has dedicated all of their numerous resources towards helping end this epidemic. True to the China speed, China constructed a 1,000-bed emergency hospital with up to date tech and equipment in Wuhan, the home of the novel virus, in 10 days.

Although the remedy antiviral drug may not be available until April, China was able to successfully trial-run various supportive drugs by end-February and found an early interim remedy.

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Since the January outbreak, I have been sharing daily statistics of the reported cases, deaths, and fortunately now the increasing number of recoveries on my social media platforms which have hundreds of thousands of followers. 

This was necessary as too much fake news is circulating on the social media like Twitter and Facebook, also because these media are not accessible in China. Dealing with fake news and WhatsApp propaganda is part of my Project Ignorance which I run under Institute of Media & Communications (IMC), a think tank, which produces reports on BRI and CPEC.

China along with WHO is taking major steps to combat fake news and producing a daily dossier of reported cases, deaths and recoveries.

Have you seen CPEC stories on this blog?

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I asked my social media friends on what they think of China and its response to the epidemic.

Ch. Amjad Farooq, who runs a Twitter handle on CPEC, said: ‘The shock of corona epidemic is surely temporary and China is dealing with the most challenging situation with utmost care and as per ethics and principles laid down by WHO. The fundamentals of China’s long-term economic development in the form of BRI will remain unchanged. The pace of China-Pakistan brotherly cooperation will keep progressing in the form of CPEC and beyond. Prayers and more power to China from friends of CPEC.’

Zamir Ahmed Awan, a professor at NUST university, said: ‘Trust Chinese governance and leadership to overcome Convid-19.’

Dr Aziz Ur Rehman, who is advisor to the President of IIUI university, said: ‘China has to show a true leadership in the area of global pharmaceutical R&D. It has done quite well in recent years in terms of manufacturing of generic pharmaceutical products and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients of originators drugs but China’s ability to develop innovative drugs, vaccines and diagnostics as industry leader has yet to be established.’

Coronavirus is perhaps such a window which would accelerate this capability.

We must trust our very capable Chinese brothers and sisters and remember them in our thoughts and assure them that they are not going through this time alone. They would overcome the epidemic soon, although the path to full economic and financial recovery may take time.

This piece originally appeared in China Pictorial, Beijing, and The Nation, Pakistan

Wali Zahid is a longtime China watcher and a Pakistan futurist. An award-winning journalist and formerly Editor of The News, Lahore, Pakistan’s largest-selling daily, he writes on issues of significance to Pakistan, CPEC & BRI and occasionally contributes to People’s Daily China, China Pictorial, Global Times. 

As President of Institute of Media and Communications (IMC), Wali was a high-level delegate at Belt & Road Forum in Beijing in May 2017 and has spoken at Think Tanks Forum in Beijing.

Twitter: @walizahid

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