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Ambassador Xu Interviewed by Volkskrant on the Pneumonia Outbreak Caused by the Novel Coronavirus
2020/02/05
 

I noticed that when interviewed, some of the Chinese ambassadors abroad warned certain countries not to overreact to China's epidemic. Do you think the Netherlands has taken an overreaction as well?

I don't think the Netherlands is overreacting now. We have maintained close communication with the relevant Dutch authorities on the relevant situation. Not long ago, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) issued a reminder on epidemic prevention, of which the Chinese version was translated by the Chinese Embassy. So far, the Netherlands has not banned Chinese people from entering the country, nor has it imposed additional restrictions on Chinese travellers at airports and other places. Of course, certain preventive measures are necessary, which we totally understand. The Dutch side said that the relevant institutions in the Netherlands are very professional and will take necessary measures based on science and facts and referring to the recommendations of the World Health Organization. We appreciate such position.

The World Health Organization has made it very clear that there is no need to take an overreaction now, and in particular, unnecessary restrictions on travel and trade should not be imposed. However, some countries indeed overreacted, including banning the entry of people who have been to China in the past two weeks. Such behavior is not based on a scientific attitude, and I suspect there are other considerations. Some of their officials even said that the outbreak in China was beneficial to the return of their manufacturing. This is to turn a disaster which the human society is sparing no efforts in fighting against into a tool for pursuing political purposes.

Are you referring to the US?

Everyone knows which country I'm talking about.

Today the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying also said that some behaviors of the US are not justified.

I don't think their words and deeds will be recognized either by most countries in the world, or by most American people. The United States is a great country, but unfortunately, some officials of the US goverment now are indeed not admirable.We can't believe that they would use the epidemic as a tool to suppress China, which only proves that they have no bottom line. Such behavior will not make the US "great again", it will only make it "great no more".

How do the Dutch people react to the Chinese people?

Generally speaking, I think the reaction of Dutch people is normal. In the meantime, we have also noticed that a few cases of discrimination against Chinese people occurred in some communities. But those are just isolated cases. In some other countries, there are comics and pictures using the epidemic as a weapon to insult China  ...

Do you mean the Chinese flag cartoon in the Danish newspaper and the "Made in China" written on the cover of the German Der Spiegel?

No similar cases have been found in the Netherlands so far. I just want to emphasize that some countries say "it is freedom of speech or freedom of expression", while I don't think using the epidemic as a weapon to attack specific countries and specific races is a right way of excercising freedom of speech and expression. It is not only immoral, but also against human rights and constitutes racial discrimination. Even if an individual wants to express such a point of view, the newspaper or magazine should think about what kind of values they want to convey to the public by making it published. Accepting such behavior means a moral decline. From another perspective, at the government level, the governments assume international obligations to prevent, condemn and prohibit acts of racial discrimination under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which is a core international treaty in human rights. If a government does nothing in this regard, and even considers racial discrimination to be a way of excercising freedom of speech or expression,that government has not fulfilled its responsibility to protect human rights.

So you think the Dutch government should do something to prevent such publications? Or it should take the initiative to stop such words and deeds when  discovered?

My hope is that such situation will not happen in the Netherlands. But if it happens, I would like to see the Dutch government take on their international obligations. Nowadays China is facing severe challenges in public health security. Similar infectious disease crises have occurred in Africa and the United States before, and may occur in other countries in the future. This kind of non-traditional security threat crosses national borders, and is beyond the will of human being. No country is immune from it alone. What the international community needs to do is to unite as one and respond together, not to stand idly by or even hit others when they are down. At the critical moment when the Chinese people are sparing no efforts to fight the epidemic, some people did not give sympathy and support, but instead carrying out unwarranted attacks, taunts and even insults on the Chinese people who had made great efforts and sacrifices. Do they have conscience? Do thet have the bottom line of civilization?

Are you very unhappy when you see something like that?

It reflects the moral standard. A few people in the West believe that their civilization is superior to other countries. But if the above-mentioned behaviors represent Western civilization, I would feel very sad. However, we won't take it too seriously. We are now sparing no efforts to fight the epidemic. There is too much important work for us to do, and we are too busy to be affected by those noises.

If there is no impact, why China cares about it so much? Acutually the more you care about something, the more people will pay attention to it.

To be honest, the Chinese people don't bother to care about it. However, it is very necessary for the Chinese embassy to make representations for such audacious and bad behaviors. We should not turn a blind eye to such behavior of racial discrimination which hurts the feelings of the Chinese people. We must show our position. If they don't repent, it means that they choose to stay in depravity.

I was shocked to see that some schools here are excluding Asian students, not just Chinese students.

We should be alert that some countries in Europe are now showing signs of xenophobia.It is not very common in the Netherlands, but it is also dangerous. Some Chinese children are being bullied at school. As a country pursuing freedom, equality, and the rule of law, how can this be allowed? Some people in the Netherlands like talking about China's human rights situation, but they should also reflect on the racial discrimination that occurs around them.

The outside world has questioned that China's information disclosure is not timely, comprehensive or transparent enough. Especially in the early stages of the epidemic, some doctors were said to be spreading rumors, leading to delays in relevant response measures. How do you respond?

I believe you have noticed that the Director General of the World Health Organization clearly stated that China's speed from the discovery of the epidemic to disclosure, response and  sharing information with the World Health Organization is "record-breaking". This is a new virus which has never been seen before; and whether it will transmit from person to person is not very clear at first. There is a gradually deepening process in understanding it. The government must consider various situations and impacts before taking any measures, and follow certain procedures. China launched the public health emergency response mechanism as soon as the number of confirmed cases reached 200. This is very fast. Of course, when looking back, people may ask: could we have responded faster? Well, we could say in every case that in the ideal situation...

The ideal situation is that the virus does not appear at all.

There is a distance between ideal and reality. We do not rule out the possibility that there may be some deficiencies, including some response measures in micro-level. After all, it involves so many areas, so much difference between urban and rural areas, and so many people. We are only bystanders now, and it's easy to be wise after the event. But for front-line decision makers and staff, the information they know, the consequences they need to consider, and the actual pressure they bear are hard to be imagined by us now. They are ordinary people, not gods. It's not fair if we require them to take perfect decisions and actions all the time. We should admit that the timeliness, comprehensiveness and strictness of the measures adopted by China have far exceeded the requirements of the International Health Regulations. We could say that no other country can do it. Of course, we also have the support of many countries.The United States has always been blaming China, but by comparison, the number of people infected during the flu season in 2019-2020 in the US is as high as more than 15 million, and more than 8,000 people died. What measures has the US taken?

The Chinese government adopts an open, transparent and responsible attitude, and releases the latest data every day. No concealment is allowed. The central government dispatched inspection groups to the local level, and the State Council also publicly solicited clues about the omitted or concealed epidemic situation. Once problems are found, responsible people will be held accountable seriously. We have seen many reports in this regard.

What do you think of the current situation of epidemic control? When is the inflection point expected to appear?

At present, most of the new cases are in Hubei Province, with fewer in other provinces and even much fewer in foreign countries. If Hubei Province did not take such decisive measures at that time, the current situation might be far worse.The sacrifice made by Hubei has provided important conditions for controlling the spread of the epidemic. It has made great contribution not only to the rest of China, but also to the global health security. However, it is still at the peak of the outbreak, and it is difficult to accurately predict on which day the inflection point will appear. On the one hand, we have taken many new measures, including the quarantine and observation of all suspected cases, and the opening of new hospitals and quarantine facilities, etc. The army has also rushed to the frontline, greatly encouraging public confidence. We believe that the inflection point will appear in the near future. But on the other hand, we should not count on luck or be negligent. Instead, we must continue to take the strictest measures and go all out to fight the epidemic. As our knowledge of the virus continues to improve, our defense capabilities will increase as well. Therefore, the scientific research is also stepping up. In addition, despite many difficulties now, the normal life and the supply of food and vegetables of ordinary people in Hubei and other places can be fully guaranteed.

Does China need assistance from other countries under the current circumstances? Do you also hope that the Dutch government and all sectors of society will provide assistance to China?

The situation now is emergent, and some factories in China did not work during the Spring Festival. Therefore, currently there is a huge gap between supply and demand in supplies such as masks and protective clothing. Many countries have recently lent helping hands to China, and we are grateful for this. A friend in need is a friend indeed. The Netherlands is also providing assistance within the EU framework. Recently, the Dutch company Philips donated 15 million Yuan worth of advanced medical equipment to the Leishenshan Hospital. Other Dutch companies and people also donated enthusiastically, which reflects the sincere friendship between China and the Netherlands.

This year is a special year for China, since China will achieve its first Centenary Goal. What impact will the epidemic have on the Chinese economy? Will it hinder the achievement of the above-mentioned goal? After all, China's economy is also important to the whole world, including the Netherlands.

In the short term, the epidemic will definitely have an impact on the economy. The specific impact still depends on how long we can overcome the epidemic. However, since China's economy and resilience are far better than in the past, in the medium and long term, it will not be seriously affected. When the World Health Organization declared the outbreak as "Public Health Emergency of International Concern", it also emphasized its opposition to restrictive measures in trade, which also showed that the impact of the epidemic on the economy would be limited. China is fully confident of building a moderately prosperous society on schedule and fulfilling the goals of poverty alleviation. The Chinese people often say: Much distress regenerates a nation.The epidemic is certainly a bad thing, but from another perspective, China's response has fully reflected China's institutional advantages, and China's ability to deal with risks and challenges has been tested. After this battle, China's governance system and governance capacity building will also reach a new level.

You mentioned the institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Can you tell us more about it? What are the most obvious advantages?

First of all, the advantages of China's system are reflected in the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China, and also in its ability to concentrate resources on major issues. At present, the Chinese government regards the fight against the epidemic as the most important task across the country. General Secretary Xi Jinping presided over two special meetings of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and clearly pointed out that the safety of people's lives and physical health are of the first priority. The people of the whole nation are working together to achieve a common goal. In a big city like Wuhan with a population of more than ten million, we adopted the measures of "closing the city", organized nearly 10,000 medical personnel nationwide to support Hubei, and built the Huoshenshan Hospital with 1,000 beds in just 10 days (already taken over by the People's Liberation Army, and has started treating patients today). The Leishenshan Hospital with 1,500 beds will be completed the day after tomorrow. These are unimaginable in other countries. Moreover, China's grassroots cadres have been mobilized, including residents' committees, villagers' committees, etc. In particular, Communist Party members rushed to the forefront under the current emergent situation regardless of their personal safety. Many volunteers also fought on the frontlines, and many touching deeds emerged. These measures taken by China fully demonstrate the strong national mobilization ability and the cohesion of the people. The World Health Organization believes that what China does has set a new benchmark for the world.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

I suppose you are very clear about the situation and relevant figures of the epidemic, as well as the measures taken by the Chinese government?

Yes. We pay close attention to the release of information in China, which is very convenient to get online.

Then as a summary, I would like to make the following points: First, the situation is still severe. Second, China is now fighting the epidemic with national strength, and we have also received extensive support from the international community, which fully reflects the concept of  a community of shared future for mankind which we advocate. Thirdly, the behaviors of hitting others when they are down and racial discrimination which have occurred in some countries should be condemned and stopped. And Fourthly, we are grateful for the scientific and rational response measures taken by the Dutch government and its support to the Chinese people.

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