After all the world has been through in 2020, the National Day Golden Week holiday gave the Chinese people an opportunity to breathe a collective sigh of relief and celebrate what, for all practical purposes, could be said to be the return to life as we knew it.
While much of the world continues to grapple with new waves of COVID-19 infections and deaths, China's whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach has succeeded in virtually containing the novel coronavirus until one or more effective vaccines are developed, another field in which China has a leadership role.
Although Qingdao has reported new cases, the city in Shandong province has begun a program of free nucleic acid testing of all 9 million residents in five days after the cases were linked to a local hospital specializing in treating pulmonary diseases. Also, the National Health Commission sent a working group to Qingdao on Monday to guide the COVID-19 epidemic control measures. The swift action once again shows how serious and committed China is to effectively controlling the pandemic.
It's hard for those of us in countries now again in the midst of increasing physical lockdowns and renewed economic meltdowns, such as here in Central Europe, to imagine that Chinese people were out in full force last week celebrating the "return to normalcy".
Not all Chinese were out enjoying, though. Hard-working Chinese officials were putting the final touches on an historic international agreement that will promote a world with a shared healthy future for humankind, and provide the Chinese people with an insurance policy for additional vaccines, if needed, beyond the four domestic vaccines in phase-III trial, some of which could be available in the near future.
On Oct 8, China joined the World Health Organization's $18 billion COVAX vaccine alliance whose goal is to give lower-income countries the same access to vaccines as wealthier ones, and to make a part of the COVAX vaccines available to requesting funding nations. COVAX has nine vaccines under development, including two from China, and its goal is to deliver 2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2021.
Sadly, some countries have not joined this effort－my country, the United States, for instance. The US, the country the world used to look to in times of crises since the end of World War II, has been "missing in action" for nearly the last four years. Worse, it has refused to join COVAX, or to cooperate with the WHO and instead is calling it "corrupt". It's the leading advocate of vaccine nationalism, an example of "America first". The US has purchased billions of dollars worth of vaccines in development for its sole use. But it is possible that the home-developed vaccines or those contracted for may fail. In that case, the US will not be able to take advantage of the nine COVAX vaccines currently in development.
If ever a country needs an insurance policy, it is the US. With 4 percent of the world's population, it leads the world with about one-fifth of the infections and deaths－more than 7.63 million infections and over 212,000 deaths.
Rather than taking a leadership role in pandemic prevention, as it did in the past, the US has chosen to use its energy to cover up its horrendous mismanagement of the health crisis at home and to demonize China by using blatantly racist terms such as "Kung flu".
This is not the only tactic the US administration has used to shift attention from its own dismal record. In a year of pandemic globally, and George Floyd, Breeona Taylor and a myriad of other racist incidents domestically, the US and some of its allies have been unashamedly criticizing China for its human rights record.
The old saying, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones at other, is referred to as the clean hands doctrine in law. China doesn't interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, and rightly objects to other countries trying to interfere in its internal matters. Perhaps Confucius said it best: "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you".
Sadly, the US has become a country of structural racism. But I don't see China demonizing the US for it.
Black people in the US account for 2.4 times more COVID-19 deaths than whites. In Arizona, the mortality rate among Native Americans is eight times as high as whites. Among all ethnic groups in the US, black people had a poverty rate of 20.8 percent and Native Americans 23.7 percent, with the percentage among whites being only 8.1 in 2018.
The right to life and health is perhaps the greatest human right of them all. Many of my Chinese friends say that the most important thing for them is to be rich. But I disagree. Without health, there is no happiness.
For those of us outside of China, perhaps we would do anything to have the peace of mind enjoyed by people in China today. We would do just about anything to not be haunted by the constant thought that if we touched the wrong door knob or were sneezed on by the wrong person, we could be visited by the COVID-19 monster. This is the human right that I sorely crave.