Global cooperation during the pandemic should spur economic recovery
Charles Ng
Chinese tourists arrive at Ngurah Rai international airport in Bali, Indonesia, January 22, 2023. /CFP
Chinese tourists arrive at Ngurah Rai international airport in Bali, Indonesia, January 22, 2023. /CFP

Chinese tourists arrive at Ngurah Rai international airport in Bali, Indonesia, January 22, 2023. /CFP

Editor's note: Charles Ng is a medical doctor who holds a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. As the founding president of the Digital Health Society, he led the COVideo19 initiative and published the Digital Solutions for Covid-19 Response for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN. 

After three years, China bids farewell to the tight measures that have shielded the mass population from SARS-CoV2, the virus that has wrought havoc across the world since 2019. 

Consequentially, COVID-19, the disease brought upon by infection of the virus, has become milder by the day. Vaccination against the virus and subsequent mutations proved to be pivotal in turning the tide of battle – mounting extra defense indiscriminately on the population, as the World Health Organization (WHO) presciently quipped "everyone, everywhere, should have access to COVID-19 vaccines," effectively protected people from dying and health systems from crumbling.

Pharmaceuticals have also scrambled to produce medicines that weaken SARS-CoV2 and prevent serious complications (so far, no drug can cure any viral infection without killing host cells and causing intolerable side effects), with much success. Science undergirded the speed with which such armamentaria were made; statistics allowed real-time feedback on our defensive strategies against the pandemic. 

This could go down in human history as one of the most defining victories on a global scale. As countries from North America to Europe to Southeast Asia have reopened their borders, the death rates and hospitalization rates have steadily decreased since, after a slight bump. The world is fast approaching a state of normalcy. It's easy to forget such normalcy we once took for granted and then fought hard to regain, would have come no sooner had global cooperation been trashed. 

To help low- and middle-income countries get up to speed, China has supplied billions of vaccines at an affordable price despite a demand crunch at home. That is because most vaccines made in the West were priced at exorbitant high levels. And the rich countries that manufactured those vaccines hoarded them, much to the chagrin of the Africans and Eastern Europeans. 

A sign board reading
A sign board reading "The Chinese Vaccine is here!" is pictured in Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania, March 22, 2021. /CFP

A sign board reading "The Chinese Vaccine is here!" is pictured in Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania, March 22, 2021. /CFP

Because the virus festers among populations ill-equipped with immunity, vaccine equality at one point became an imminent issue for the WHO to tackle. Scientists worldwide agree that inequitable distribution of vaccines not only harms poorer countries but threatens richer countries as mutated viral strains strike back. 

Amid a sweep of nationalist bent across the world, China took a bold decision to ride the tide alongside neighboring countries rather than locking horns with them in a zero-sum game. As the world transitions into the post-COVID era, more global cooperation will prove to be very wise.  

By opposing all Chinese initiatives, the U.S. is gradually losing charm in its ability to shape global politics. China-bashing and propagating fringe beliefs have become vote-winners in America. And American politicians feel inclined to replicate such tactics on the world stage. By reactively rejecting Chinese policies, the U.S. has exposed its weakest link – politicians have run out of options to inspire the world than to paint China as a public enemy.

With the benefit of hindsight, lessons learned from globalization remain relevant. After China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, the central government opened up the services sector and allowed foreign investment. Financial services, telecommunications and insurance among other sectors opened up to other economies. China was not the sole beneficiary.

At that time, the U.S. and many developed countries were suffering from lagging growth due to high labor and manufacturing costs onshore. That China has legitimized the WTO offered the world a new market from which their consumers obtained low-cost imported goods and companies profited from cheap manufacturing. Such erstwhile win-win conditions may be difficult to recreate in an era where populist politicians bay for ever more trade protectionism.

As the world resigns itself to the retreat of the U.S., currently the largest economy, from globalization, China continues to believe in a multilateral economy. So should other developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South Asia.

At the trough of globalization, the U.S. wielded its dollar hegemony unceremoniously to save its own hides despite solid evidence that it could spark an uncontrollable flame of inflation locally and beyond. And it did indeed. Innocent people residing in debt-laden countries suffered from food and energy shortages as a result.

China recognized finger-pointing helps no one in solving issues that are closest to their hearts. Basic human rights such as access to food, medicine and shelter must be expanded to even the most deserted hinterlands of the mainland, whereas city dwellers yearn for an even higher quality of living.

This is a dream shared by all citizens in the world. By mending global supply chains, China hopes to achieve prosperity jointly with countries sharing the same goals. If world leaders uphold democracy, this is the most salient voice they should hear – it's high time for them to come together and get work done. 

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