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Thursday, March 26, 2020, 14:43
Only united fight can nullify global threat of virus
By Denis Simon
Thursday, March 26, 2020, 14:43 By Denis Simon

The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused global havoc. A growing number of countries are struggling to contain the spread of the virus, and many of them lack the necessary medical equipment and healthcare infrastructure to respond to such a fast-moving, unrelenting pandemic.

The United States, despite its modern, advanced medical system, is now feeling the impact of the pandemic in a way few people, especially officials in the White House, seemingly anticipated. To the great chagrin of many, the US leader initially referred to the novel coronavirus as the "Chinese virus", a name that is both highly offensive and insensitive.

Now is the time to build bridges rather than using insulting language that seeks to dismantle them. The world today desperately needs the Chinese and American researchers and healthcare experts to ... use their combined strengths to contain the outbreak

True, he stopped using the offensive term on Tuesday, but by using such racist terms for the virus, some US officials have helped intensify the discrimination against Chinese (and other Asianorigin) people. Which suggests the US leader and his officials were more interested in blaming China for the pandemic than actually addressing it.

The novel coronavirus may have been first detected in China, but there is nothing inherently Chinese about the virus. Nor is there evidence to support the conspiracy theorists on both sides who claim that it is some form of biological warfare. Scientists around the world are carrying out research to determine the origin of the virus, but any effort to link it to China or the Chinese people would be misjudged and insulting. That some people continue to use of terms such as the "Chinese virus" on social media has left a broad spectrum of the Chinese people even more indignant and alarmed about the racial prejudices that continue to exist in the US and other countries.

But if one thing has become clear in this crisis, it is that the US and China must work together to address the tumult caused by the pandemic. They must marshal together the leading scientists and medical experts in both countries to bring the virus under control, because at stake, without exaggeration, is the future of the global economy and the well-being of the people across the world.

The tremendous disruptions the coronavirus outbreak has caused in the global supply chain have not only led to the closure of hundreds of thousands of businesses and factories in China but also created shortages in critical supplies needed to address outbreaks in the US and Europe. With the economies of China and the US both severely affected, it will take a huge collaborative effort between Washington and Beijing to reinvigorate the world economy once the spread of the virus begins to ebb.

In other words, now is the time to build bridges rather than using insulting language that seeks to dismantle them. The world today desperately needs the Chinese and American researchers and healthcare experts to share their data and experiences, and use their combined strengths to contain the outbreak.

On Tuesday, many people felt a sense of relief seeing the US leader change his tone when addressing the American public and the world about the key actions needed to bring the virus under control.

On March 18, China didn't report any new local cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia, the first time since the outbreak. Which came as a huge relief to the Chinese people, because after the coronavirus epidemic broke out in Wuhan, Hubei province, it required extensive State intervention to bring it under control, including locking down the entire province of Hubei.

There are many lessons the US can learn from China's experience in fighting the epidemic. Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Baidu have established a unique digital information platform to share China's experiences so that other countries can benefit from them as the epidemic continues to intensify globally.

As an American and as a citizen of the world, I'm glad the US leader has finally chosen to stop calling the novel coronavirus the "Chinese virus", and I hope he keeps it that way.

The US must set an example for the world by rising above the use of such racist and offensive terms and working to unify people against a global threat. We must do everything in our power to build trust and establish a common purpose between nations. This is the time for the US to demonstrate the inspired leadership the world so desperately needs. As the first governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop put it centuries ago, "We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. … The eyes of all people are upon us."

The author is a scholar of US-China relations, executive vice-chancellor of Duke Kunshan University and a Sino-US joint venture in eastern China. 

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


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