COVID-19: The crisis shows the true face of everyone

Outbreaks of infectious diseases of pandemic proportions have been known in the history of mankind for a long time. However, the epidemic of the new coronavirus COVID-19 was not only a surprise for the whole world, but also broke historical records. The dynamics of the spread of the coronavirus has shown that today no state is immune from such a tragedy. 

The emergence of a new coronavirus has created a great panic in the world due to the circulation of various and often unreliable information, political manipulations, fakes and rumors around COVID-19. The analysis of the international situation shows several stages of development and changes in the reaction from January of this year to the present. 

And so, the first stage began after the first reports of a new coronavirus in early 2020. At the same time, the news about the appearance of a new infection in December 2019 against the background of the New Year holidays passed by. Since the end of January this year, the world community has been closely monitoring the development of the epidemiological situation in China. At that time, Western media deliberately pasted COVID-19 labels – “Chinese”, “Wuhan”, “appeared in the PRC”, etc. Apparently, these persistently promoted accents should have clearly and always positioned China as a global threat. 

The Chinese leadership, having experience in countering various epidemics of the XXI century, immediately took strict measures. And since then, Western political leaders, human rights organizations and experts have openly criticized the Chinese methods of quarantining entire regions and cities. At that time, Beijing’s actions were called cruel, “draconian”, “inhumane” and “violating human rights” , etc. 

It is important to pay attention to the fact that there was virtually no question of assistance to China from Western countries at that time. On the contrary, the media of Western countries seriously speculated about the possibility of the fall of the regime of the Communist Party of China as a result of the impact of the coronavirus epidemic. In January-February of this year, more than one anti-Chinese wave swept through many Western media. 

The second stage began against the background of a sharp outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic in South Korea and Japan in February this year.The reaction was more than ambiguous – a sharp surge of xenophobia began in Europe, where all Asians were suddenly perceived by the European population as a threat and a source of dangerous infection. 

The absurdity of the situation was that even Asians born and raised in Europe – full-fledged citizens of EU countries-became the objects of aggressive attacks at the domestic level. For some reason, the European communities mistakenly and (without scientific grounds) began to believe that the new coronavirus affects only Asians. 

But there was no danger at the state level yet. At that time, there were relaxed discussions in the West about the likely impact of the epidemic on the world economy, made predictions about the possible appearance of the coronavirus in Western countries and made optimistic conclusions about the readiness of health systems to withstand a new challenge. 

After the previous outbreaks of SARS and avian flu in Asia, COVID-19 looked like a problem only for China. In the United States, where the first case of coronavirus was first recorded at the end of January this year, they also preferred not to dramatize the situation.
Empty theoretical conversations distracted the attention of governments and there was an underestimation of the real situation. In Western political and academic circles, the prevailing opinion was that in the fight against the epidemic there should be a balance between protecting people’s lives and their livelihoods. What led to such reflections and the loss of time for a quick response-it became clear already literally in the first decade of March this year. 

The third stage began at the end of February this year. Suddenly ,it “unexpectedly turned out” that, contrary to European stereotypical assessments, COVID-19 actually affects not only Asians, but absolutely all people, regardless of their social status, ethnic or religious affiliation. Also in March of this year’s global pandemic, the situation in the world is changing dramatically: China officially declares victory over the coronavirus, South Korea and Japan are gradually coping with the raging epidemic. 

By the way, Kazakhstan has been monitoring the situation in China from the very first days and has taken prompt measures to prepare for the fight against a possible threat. The Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan has been studying the Chinese experience and its effects in detail since the end of January this year, which, in principle, has now helped to take timely measures to introduce quarantine and organize mass treatment. And it should be especially noted that the coronavirus entered Kazakhstan not from China, where COVID-19 was localized, but from Europe, where control over the epidemic was completely missed.  

And what is happening in the West? European countries suddenly, one after another, began to close from the inside, to introduce a state of emergency, panic began to grow among the population. In reality, the coronavirus epidemic has dealt a serious political blow to the European Union and revealed a deep invisible discord in European integration. Outwardly, the ideal EU, in fact, turned out to be unprepared to act together in the conditions of the crisis. The member states began to close their borders tightly for the first time in many years, and the pan-European center, against the background of an unknown threat, was unable to act as an effective crisis manager. 

In the first half of March, 22 Americans died in the United States, but the leadership of this country still believed that the risk of COVID-19 was overestimated. D. Trump then tweeted that ” last year, 37 thousand Americans died from the flu. On average, the mortality rate ranges from 27 thousand to 70 thousand people per year. Nothing is closed, life and the economy continue.” However, the United States still had to turn to isolation measures. Today, 36 states out of 50 have introduced quarantine at different levels, since such a decision is already made at the level of the leadership of each state, where the threat is seen differently. 

As a result, fighting the coronavirus, many countries of the world were forced to isolate the population and introduce quarantine according to the Chinese experience, which was previously considered as an inhumane method. And in general, it is not entirely clear why critics from the first days of the epidemic pay attention to only one side of the fight against COVID-19 – namely, strict quarantine. Although it was the isolation of the population that stopped the chain of rapid spread of the coronavirus between people. 

In addition, critics have overlooked the fact that in the framework of an organized fight against a new type of epidemic, the Chinese model has shown in practice not only efficiency, but also innovation. Thus, the” secret weapon ” of the Chinese healthcare system was Chinese traditional medicine, which organically complemented modern medical methods. According to experts, it gave a good result due to its focus on immunization. 

The latest technologies of facial recognition, big data analysis and artificial intelligence were also aimed at combating the epidemic – they showed the world the new opportunities of the Chinese electronics industry. Videos where Chinese police officers check the temperature of thousands of citizens on the streets in helmets with innovative optical remote measurement systems are widely distributed in the media and social networks. In practice, new applied combinations of various bio – and IT-developments were worked out in China. 

The Chinese authorities very quickly mobilized the population and the national health system – more than 40 thousand doctors were sent to Hubei Province alone, from where the epidemic began. There, in an unrealistically short time, special infectious diseases hospitals were deployed for more than 60 thousand patients (by the way,the CCP ideological bloc was able to profitably use this fact, because millions of viewers watched the construction on the live CCTV channel). Objectively speaking, the efforts for many countries are incredible. 

In general, it should be noted that within the framework of the coronavirus epidemic, the Chinese leadership managed to turn a strategic security challenge into its undeniable advantage. What is the famous recognition of B. Aylward, a well-known epidemiologist from Canada, that if he had been diagnosed with COVID-19, he would have preferred to be treated in the PRC. As a result of systemic measures, at the end of March this year, China officially declares victory over the spread of the epidemic. Now Beijing is closing the borders so that the “second wave coronavirus” is not brought back to the country from outside. 

And what is happening at the moment in the world? In reality, from January to the end of March this year, the number of infected people in the world exceeded 800 thousand people (although in the middle of the month the number of cases was about 160 thousand people). And this number continues to grow. Due to the strategic underestimation of risks in January-February and the loss of time, there was a jump in the epidemic in Europe and the United States. 

At the same time, the world anti-record for the number of infected people no longer belongs to China (over 80 thousand infected), but to the United States (over 140 thousand infected), Italy (over 100 thousand) and Spain (over 85 thousand). Thus, objectively, the real focus of the global pandemic was the countries of Western Europe and the United States, and not the PRC, which managed to quickly localize the coronavirus.   

In comparison, all states with a large number of COVID-19 cases show completely different dynamics. So, today the PRC officially reports that 75 thousand people have already recovered, and more and more people are still dying every day in the United States, Italy and Spain. There are still hundreds of times fewer patients who have managed to recover.

And if we look at this situation statistically, it turns out that China, with a population of 1.4 billion people, allowed only 0.005% of its citizens to become infected, of which 91% have already recovered. In the United States, with a population of 330 million people, about 0.037% of Americans have become ill at the moment (despite the fact that the growth of infected people continues), there is no noticeable breakthrough in treatment yet. 

If we take the situation in Italy – then with a population of 60 million COVID-19, 0.15% of Italians have already fallen ill,which is very much. If you think about these figures, a number of clear conclusions are obvious. In particular, against this background, it makes no sense to discuss whose experience in countering the epidemic was more effective – there is no need to prove it, the figures presented show everything well. 

But it is traditionally considered that Western countries are the undisputed leaders in the field of healthcare. Apparently, either this progressive medicine is not available for everyone, or its real capabilities are greatly exaggerated by marketers. The current epidemic shows this dispassionately. 

Against this background, without exaggeration, China’s experience in neutralizing the COVID-19 pandemic looks advantageous and historically significant. With such a high density and mobility of the Chinese population – if the Chinese authorities delayed, the coronavirus could very quickly infect several hundred million or more. In this case, it would be very difficult to stop the global pandemic. 

Such a hypothetical scenario would be extremely catastrophic for the whole world. And therefore, the measures quickly taken by Beijing demonstrate, first of all, a high historical responsibility for the security of the entire planet. And in China, this was well understood from the first days of the appearance of the new coronavirus. 

But the slowdown in the introduction of quarantine or its non-compliance leads to pandemic crises, which are now observed in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, etc. As a result, many EU states themselves began to introduce a “draconian diktat” in a hurry, strengthen “total control over the population” and “infringe on civil rights”. As it turned out, there is no other way, and the criticized actions of the People’s Republic of China were not based on any policy, but on purely social and medical tasks. 

The history of these several dramatic months shows that the decision to impose a strict but life-saving quarantine, unfortunately, has already cost the West thousands of lives of its citizens. Attention is also drawn to the rhetoric of certain Western leaders, who calmly talk about how many thousands of citizens in their countries will die during the current epidemic and call some figures in general a “good scenario”. This is also the subject of many materials of the Western press, which is chasing only sensations. 

The fight against coronavirus in the world continues. While epidemiological chaos is happening in Europe and the United States, the Chinese are sharing their experience in treating infected people, as well as actively sending humanitarian aid to other states, including those that have publicly criticized Chinese quarantine methods. Having barely recovered from the epidemic, the PRC itself provides various assistance to more than 80 states and 4 international organizations in the fight against COVID-19. Thus, the Chinese people are striving to respond with good for good, because at the peak of the epidemic in the People’s Republic of China, many countries supported it.

Today, Chinese experts in the fight against COVID-19 (in fact, the most experienced in the world today) travel to Italy, Great Britain, South Korea, Kazakhstan, etc., and also conduct special video seminars for doctors in different countries. This work involves not only state structures, but also private companies and foundations. It is noteworthy that Chinese businessmen, for example, J. Ma sent aid to the United States, thereby showing that there is no place for political differences in moments of crisis.

Such examples demonstrate the triumph of human solidarity and mutual support. Thus, China is actually demonstrating its global responsibility and the model of the Community of the common Destiny of Humanity in action. The year 2020 showed that the idea announced eight years ago can save the planet in the face of new, unknown challenges. This year has shown that the world really needs new thinking in the field of security to promote global governance. 

What lessons has the new coronavirus taught the world? COVID-19 covered 180 countries in less than three months and for the first time in history clearly showed all the side effects of globalization and dealt a strong blow to the world economy. The epidemic has shown the fragility of humanity and its vulnerability to nature. 

It seems that it has actually shown the real potential for the survival of each country in a very real stress regime. And the conclusion here is simple: no country and no people, despite all the power of the economy and the army, will survive alone. Viruses do not know borders, do not distinguish between nationalities, they penetrate everywhere. 

Here, I think, it is appropriate to recall well-known wisdom, such as “a friend is known in trouble” or the fact that a crisis shows the true face of everyone… Over these past months, everyone has passed a tough test. Some states focused only on their own survival, others tried to cooperate, and others actively helped those who could not cope. 

Most likely, after the current pandemic in the world is stopped, there should be a qualitative reconfiguration of international political dialogue and cooperation. And here the idea of a Community of a single destiny of humanity is quite in demand. After all, in all likelihood, such pandemics are possible in the future, but whether the world community will survive with such approaches as the COVID-19 coronavirus has revealed is a big question.

Yerlan Auezbekov,

Researcher at the Center for the Study of China, Nur-Sultan

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