Chinese Academic Defends Country’s Role amid Covid-19 Crisis

By Ehtesham Shahid
DUBAI, Apr 1 2020 (IPS-Partners)

Global crises need global solutions yet some adjustments will have to be made if the world has to adopt a multilateral approach toward tackling the Corona pandemic, a senior academic said on Tuesday, March 31.

Participating in an e-symposium organized by the think-tank, TRENDS Research & Advisory, Prof. Yong Wang of the School of International Studies and Director, Center for International Political Economy at Peking University, said the G-20 has already taken an initiative and more such efforts are needed.

“We have our national interests but for facing challenges such as this we should work together,” he said. Prof. Wang was a panelist at the e-symposium – – Confronting the Challenges of COVID-19: A New Global Outlook – which was attended by several experts and researchers from around the world.

“Instead of scapegoating countries like China and India, countries like the US should look at their policies. We need to have a broader perspective on this,” said Prof. Wang.

Sharing China’s experience, he said that the country did the right thing by taking very tough measures such as the lockdown of Wuhan. “Indeed we are in the era of globalization and it has been rightly pointed out that this won’t be the last such outbreak,” he said.

“Chinese scientists shared genetic sequencing, which helped in data compilation and intelligence gathering to tackle the virus. The pandemic is under control in China and factories and companies are opening now. However, the government is still applying a very cautious approach,” he said.

Experts participating in this first-ever e-symposium of its kind highlighted the ongoing struggle between forces of globalization and protectionism but emphasized the need for a collective response to the Covid-19 challenge.

Prof. Maurizio Barbeschi, Adviser to the Executive Director, World Health Emergencies (WHE) Program at The World Health Organization (WHO), said the world has been preparing for pandemic since SARS and it is impressive how not prepared the planet was.

According to him, it is not just the peak of the pandemic but also the bumps and re-entry to normalcy will have to be managed. “Even vaccines may have to be handled with extreme care for not creating groups of haves and have-nots,” he said.

Prof. Barbeschi also said that it is obvious that travel bans did not work well. “The first reaction of governments so far wasn’t smart, quick or big or large enough to stop the exponential move of the virus,” he said.

Gulfaraz Khan, Professor of Viral Pathology and Chair, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, UAE University, said that the scientific community is united against Covid-19.

Prof. Khan said that it must be acknowledged that China identified and made the virus sequence available to the international community within two weeks of the outbreak. “We have also seen an unprecedented number of publications on Covid-19,” Prof. Khan said pointing out that the world failed to identify the threat early.

“We had approximately a month to look at the outbreak even though the disease was spreading. The majority of the world’s cases happened after February so we need to learn lessons as a global community,” he said.

Prof. Khan also ruled out the possibility of a vaccine coming out anytime soon. “It could take 12-18 months if you add the time needed in mass production and in making it available around the world,” he said.

Delivering an international security perspective, Dr. Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said it is not yet clear whether parochialism will triumph over populism in the aftermath of this crisis.

“There is discourse emerging from Europe that may not reflect the ground reality. There seems to be an adrenaline rush for insularity and parochialism promoted by populism which is not helping,” he said.

According to Dr. Ibish, the crisis also poses a real threat to democracy in many countries. “Authoritarian states like China, in particular, say they are better at the discipline and population control needed to contain the virus,” he said. Dr. Ibish also argued that demagogues may use this crisis to consolidate power.

Dr. David Meyer, Associate Professor of Security and Global Studies and Program Director, Master of Arts in Diplomacy at the College of Security and Global Studies, the American University in the Emirates, said the US will continue to demand favorable trade deals as national interest cannot be wished away.

“After this crisis ends, protectionism will come back with a vengeance as more and more countries slip into recession. If the quarantine lasts more than six months then we are looking at economic depression,” he said.

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