In his opening remarks at the meeting of G20 foreign and development ministers in the Italian city of Matera on Tuesday, Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio emphasized the need for a concerted international response to emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a response that "transcends national boundaries".
Indeed, concerted actions are imperative if the world is to emerge from the shadow of the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic. In his speech addressing the meeting via video link from Beijing, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the G20 members to set a good example in this respect by promoting the spirit of partnership and making joint efforts in the global fight against the virus.
He stressed the need for strengthened vaccine, diagnosis and treatment cooperation, and joint prevention and control work. In particular, he called for more support for developing countries, urging the vaccine-producing nations to reject export restrictions or overstocking, so as to close the wide immunization gap that has arisen between the developed and developing countries.
China on its part has been making its vaccines accessible and affordable to other developing countries, despite its own pressing needs. Delivering on President Xi Jinping's pledge that the vaccines developed by China would be a global public good, the country has so far provided more than 450 million doses of vaccines to nearly 100 countries.
But China's sharing of its vaccines with other nations has been vilified by some in the West, who, in their vehement drive to politicize the pandemic, have accused it of so-called vaccine diplomacy.
Those accusing China of seeking to boost its international standing through vaccine diplomacy have some gall. Not only is it a distortion of China's good intentions, but those most loudly voicing the accusation are from Western countries which have hoarded huge amounts of vaccines that far surpass their own needs and imposed export restrictions on vaccines and the raw materials needed for their production. Such selfish acts have not only exacerbated the global vaccine shortage and immunity disparity between the developed and developing worlds, but also risk prolonging the pandemic, bringing fresh risks from new variants of the virus. The vaccines that have been developed are effective, but we only know that is for now. We need to make the best use of them.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the necessity to shore up multilateralism and strengthen international cooperation. Unilateralism and selfishness, not to mention the politicizing of the pandemic, will only undermine global efforts to jointly contain the virus from spreading, putting people in every country potentially at risk.
With new variants of the virus adding increasing uncertainties to the fight against the virus, the world is counting on vaccines to bring an end to the pandemic. In the race against the virus, cross-border vaccine cooperation is incumbent on all nations so the world can achieve herd immunity at the earliest.
To accelerate the urgent work of vaccinating the world, more collaboration and contribution, especially from those countries which have the capabilities, are badly needed.