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On Sunday, senior Chinese officials released a report defending the nation’s response to the pandemic and urged the international community to unite during these difficult times.
“China has always acted with openness, transparency and responsibility, and informed the international community of developments of the epidemic in a timely manner,” read the 84-paged report.
“The baseless accusation that China concealed epidemic information and death figures is a calculated slur on the 1.4 billion Chinese people, including those killed by the virus, and on millions of Chinese medical workers,” it added. “China categorically rejects any such accusation.”
The release of the report comes amid ongoing scrutiny toward China for their initial handling of the coronavirus which has since infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands around the world.
Last Wednesday, Associated Press (AP) reported that Chinese officials withheld the genetic map of the new coronavirus for over a week. The details were crucial for other countries to trace the spread of the virus and begin designing tests, drugs and vaccines during a time where the outbreak arguably may have been dramatically slowed.
After obtaining internal documents, emails, interviews and recordings of internal meetings from the World Health Organization (WHO), investigators found that strict controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were largely to blame for the delay.
Speaking on the report on Sunday at a news conference, the director of China’s National Health Commission Ma Xiaowei, refuted the claims made by the AP investigation saying that it “seriously goes against facts.”
Without addressing any specific findings, he added that there were many unknowns during the early stages and officials needed time to gather evidence and verify findings about the new virus before an official release or announcement.
“The Chinese government did not delay or cover up anything,” he said.
“Instead we have immediately reported virus data and relevant information about the epidemic to the international community and made an important contribution to the prevention and control of the epidemic around the world.”
Ma then proceeded to condemn the blame-shifting behavior and tense rhetoric directed toward China in the international community.
“Certain countries go against the tide of history. To disguise their inadequate response to Covid-19, they insanely smeared and slandered China … In response to such scapegoating practice, China will certainly fight back,” he said without expressly mentioning any countries.
Ma’s statement comes only two days after the launch of The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international coalition formed by countries including the United Kingdom, United States and European Parliament, to counter challenges posed by China’s growing global influence.
The launch of IPAC, which the Chinese government has yet to directly comment on, is only one of the many recent instances of growing tensions and distrust between China and the global community, especially the US.
The WHO, as they scramble to contain the pandemic, has also found themselves caught in the middle of the power struggle between the two superpowers. Although countries are obliged and expected to report public health information to the health agency, it has no power to enforce international laws. Instead, it must rely on the cooperation of member states.
In the early months of the outbreak, the global health body was accused of siding with China, praising the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus as well as supporting them on politically sensitive issues, such as Taiwan’s participation in the WHO committee.
According to the AP report, this was due to the WHO’s desperate efforts to persuade China into cooperating with the agency to provide the much-needed outbreak details.
In condemnation of WHO’s appraisal of China, US President Donald Trump halted funding for the organization in April, accusing them of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
Prior to the funding freeze, the US was the organization’s largest financial contributor.
However on Sunday, when asked about the state of China’s international relationships as a result of the pandemic, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu stated that China has actually “strengthened” their relations with “most” other countries after COVID-19.
He then cited China’s pledge to contribute US$2 billion to pandemic relief and research and the 70.6 billion masks, 96,700 ventilators and 225 million test kits that China has exported to 200 countries and regions internationally since March.
“In the face of such a pandemic, the world’s most powerful weapon is cooperation,” said Ma.
“And the right way to fight the virus is solidarity.”
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