By Mr. Du Xiaohui, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia
It has been three years since the outbreak of COVID-19. With the virus mutating, severe cases and mortality caused by the Omicron variant have significantly dropped, indicating a milestone in the global fight against COVID. China has downgraded its management of the infectious disease of COVID from Class A to Class B from Jan. 8 and eased relevant restrictions. This is good for the people, the country, and the world. However, these changes have been cast in a negative light by some media with malicious intent to mislead people's perception of China. It is, therefore, necessary to review China's efforts against COVID over the past three years, including how China effectively protected the lives of its people and contributed its wisdom and strength to this global fight.
China has always safeguarded the health of its people. Over the past three years, the CPC and the Chinese government have struck a balance between prevention measures and socioeconomic development, drawing on China’s conditions to formulate policies that were in the best interests of the general public. As a result, China has experienced the lowest number of COVID deaths among the world’s major countries. What some have labeled as the “failure of the dynamic zero-COVID policy” is nothing more than a fallacy without a shred of truth. At the height of the virus' deadliest period, China mobilized all its resources and spared no expense to protect the health of its people, which has contributed to the fight against the pandemic of people all over the world. Whether it was a newborn baby or a centenarian, China's policy ensured that no infected person was left behind and no patient was abandoned. The concept of "putting the people and their lives above all else" has been consistent.
China has worked vigorously to implement mass vaccination. More than a dozen kinds of vaccines are available in China, spanning a wide range of technologies and modes of vaccination, with an annual production capacity of 7 billion doses. China's full vaccination rate is already over 90%, and the rates for those over 60 or 80 are 85% and 65% respectively. China has administered 3.4 billion doses of the vaccine, protecting its people through the most dangerous period. The Chinese vaccines have proven to be fully effective and prevented millions of lives from being lost. The unwarranted questioning of Chinese vaccines is an attempt to defy science and discredit China. China is enhancing its vaccines to improve efficacy and to better respond to the mutations.
China has championed international cooperation. No country can stand alone in the face of the pandemic. To date, China has supplied more than 2.2 billion doses of vaccines to more than 150 countries and international organizations, as well as hundreds of billions pieces of medical supplies to 153 countries and 15 international organizations. China is the first country that pledged to make COVID vaccines a global public good, to support intellectual property rights (IPR) exemptions for vaccine R&D, and to cooperate with other developing countries in the vaccine manufacturing process. In this way, China has made important contributions to address the distribution deficit and the immunization gap, demonstrating its commitment to fulfilling its international responsibility.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Africa have stood together in solidarity and fought side by side. We are mindful of the invaluable support from Africa at the most difficult time in China’s fight against COVID-19. After the outbreak in Africa, China took the lead in assisting and standing firmly with the people in Africa. When the pandemic first began in 2020, H.E. President Xi Jinping chaired the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, where he suggested the building of a China-Africa community of health. China has provided 189 million doses of vaccines for more than 50 African countries and sent 5 expert teams and 46 Chinese medical teams to participate in local operations against COVID-19. China has provided 1.1 million doses of vaccines and a large number of medical supplies for Zambia. After cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, China-Zambia and China-Africa relations have become more enhanced.
China has taken flexible approach to adjust its COVID measures. China's dynamic zero-COVID policy has never been about mindless lockdowns. For most of the past three years, the Chinese people were free to travel, shop, dine and watch movies as this policy kept COVID and its variants out of the country. During the Golden Week holiday over the past three years, tourist attractions were crowded. The Chinese Lunar New Year holiday from February 11th to 17th in 2021 saw 160 million movie-goers hit the theaters for 1.3 billion USDs at the box office. Both 2020 and 2021 saw China top the global box office. The New Year's Day holiday of 2023 has just passed. In Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, with streets full of traffic, malls crowded and subways packed with people, the long-lost lively atmosphere is back. The misinformation that "China is imprisoning people" is pure slander.
With a mutating and less lethal virus, as well as more effective groundwork for pandemic prevention, China's initiative to optimize its COVID respond measures is expected to unlock the potential and dynamism of China's economy, and help the world economy recover and grow through a stable and unrestricted international industrial chain and supply chain. China's entry-exit policy for the orderly resumption of the flow of people between China and the world is a sound decision based on scientific judgment and a responsible move for the people of China and the world. Although it will inevitably take time to adapt to the shift in the policies, China is confident and capable of riding out the upsurge of COVID cases at a minimal cost so that people's social and economic activities can return to normal. Major international institutions predict that the world economy may succumb to a recession in 2023, yet the Chinese economy has the possibility of achieving faster growth. China's growth will boost the world's growth and is bound to produce more benefits for its win-win cooperation with Zambia and other African countries.
According to recent statements by global health experts, the COVID-19 virus strains currently prevalent in China have previously spread throughout other parts of the world. Entry restriction measures have been taken by some countries against China are not science-based. We are firmly opposed to those discriminatory COVID control measures for political purposes.
I believe that after weathering the storm of COVID, the people of China and Zambia will continue their close friendship and practical cooperation, and inject more stability and certainty to a world rocked by changes and turmoil.