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Chinese Ambassador's Open Letter to the Dutch Friends

Dear Dutch people, dear friends

An unexpected novel coronavirus casts a haze over the bright spring in the Netherlands, and brings huge change to way of life. People anxiously hope that the pandemic will pass early, and return to normal life. At the same time, we have also witnessed the solidarity, courage and "Je Maintiendrai" of the Dutch people in the face of difficulties. Numerous medical staff, workers at infrastructure and other key positions as well as volunteers work day and night to race against time and spare no effort to save lives. They are "heroes who brave a dangerous situation", and my colleagues and I, together with the Dutch people, applaud them!

China was the first victim severely hit by the epidemic. My hometown, Hubei Province, was once the epicenter. Many of my friends and relatives have experienced lockdown and anxiety for more than two months. So when the virus raged in the Netherlands, we felt particularly empathetic. Here, I would like to share some of my thoughts on this disaster with my fellow Dutch friends.

First of all, this pandemic teaches us to maintain the awe of nature. Despite that some irresponsible politicians and media spread rumors that the novel coronavirus came from a biolab in Wuhan, authoritative scientists and well-known science magazines such as Nature and The Lancet point out that human does not have such capability yet. Comparing with nature, human beings are very humble; and many laws of nature have not yet been understood. Viruses are the result of nature evolution. If we stand in awe of nature, and take the virus as a respectable enemy by building careful defense against it, then we have a chance to win. On the contrary, those ignoring the real enemy with arrogance while being busy with fabricating so-called "conspiracy theory" or even trying to manipulate it as a political tool are doomed to be punished by nature.

Some argue that the virus transmitted to human because Chinese people consume wild animals, for which China has to bear the responsibility. It’s undeniable that a small number of people in China and some other countries still have bad habit of consuming wild animals. To eliminate this phenomenon, the Chinese government has taken decisive measures to pass a legislation on February 24 this year to comprehensively prohibit the hunting, trading, transportation and consumption of wild animals. Till today, scientists are still investigating the source of COVID-19. It is still unclear how the virus was transmitted to human from bats or other intermediate hosts, and whether the virus originates in China. On the contrary, it has been discovered that the earliest case in Wuhan is not traced to the Huanan Seafood Market which used to sell wild animals. So, instead of rushing to make conclusions based on speculation, we should have patience for the scientific research result. It is common sense of the international community that virus as a natural disaster could randomly occur anywhere in the world, just like HIN1, SARS, EBOLA, MERS etc. It’s unreasonable to hold the first victim country responsible and people should firmly oppose linking virus to a certain country, region or race to avoid prejudice and stigma.

Secondly, this pandemic teaches us that government should always perform its function in an honest and responsible way. China handles the outbreak in a swift, open, transparent and responsible way, as the response timeline clearly shows. Upon report of the first case in a Hubei hospital on Dec 27 2019, relevant Chinese authorities instantly launched investigation, and WHO was officially notified within a week. On Jan 12 2020, China shared with the world the genetic sequence of the newly discovered virus, and continues to inform the world of the updates in a comprehensive way. China’s effort has received high praise from scientists all over the world. Giving top priority to people’s life and health, the Chinese government took decisive lockdown on Wuhan on Jan 23 and initiated first-level public health emergency response across China. 2 temporary hospitals and 16 makeshift hospitals were built in days, providing 25000 extra beds, over 40000 medical workers around the country were sent to assist Hubei, and strict measures were taken at border ports to prevent virus export. The whole world has witnessed how Chinese people are fighting a bitter war with the virus. Dutch people from all walks of life are expressing support for China and Wuhan. In the letters to Chinese leaders, his Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Rutte all showed their appreciation for the strength and courage of the Chinese people.

However, though China’s unprecedented lockdown measures have greatly reduced the infection and slowed the global spread, the epidemic still unfortunately broke out in Europe. Some people attribute the outbreak to so-called China’s cover-up of information, which is quite unfair to the Chinese people who sacrificed so much in fighting the epidemic. China has never covered up anything. Even if China’s information failed to draw the attention of some countries in the first several weeks, everybody should have known the seriousness of the outbreak when Wuhan was locked down on Jan 23. Otherwise, why such drastic measures were taken to put millions of people’s life on hold. Since then, China has released the information about the epidemic every day, repeatedly stressing the characteristics of the virus and issued early warnings to other countries. Scientists have also published many thesis about the virus. How could information be hidden under these circumstances? Some people are saying that China did not release the real number of confirmed cases and the death toll, leading to misjudgment of the severity of the epidemic in other countries. In our view, confirmed cases and deaths toll in China are already very high, which is neither possible to cover up nor necessary to conceal. The reason why the Chinese figure is much lower than those in other countries is the most comprehensive, thorough, and strictest prevention and control measures taken in a relatively early stage by Chinese government which were not applied in other countries. Another reason is that Chinese people, in awe and respect of the force of nature, tend to consciously cooperate with the implementation of control measures in an attitude of being responsible to others and the rest of the society, which can also be proved by the fact that very few overseas Chinese people are infected by the COVID-19 in other countries.

Others claimed that China’s lockdown were delayed by three weeks, which led to the spread of the virus. It must be pointed out that China is the first country to report the COVID-19, a virus that has never been known in history. Doctors and experts as well as government officials need certain amount of time to get to know this virus from a scientific perspective. No country would have announced extreme measures such as lockdown when only dozens of cases are found. In fact, Chinese local health authority received the notification from local hospital about the unknown virus on December 27 last year for the first time. Later, the government announced the “lock down of Wuhan” on January 23 this year. At that time, the total number of confirmed cases in China just reached 571,and only 9 cases were confirmed outside of China. After that, despite of fully understanding of the characteristics of the virus provided by China, which country has taken “faster” prevention measures than China?

Now some politicians and the media are holding magnifying glasses all day searching China’s blemish, fabricate and spread different kinds of lies, attack the political system of China, and incite hatred and discrimination against the Chinese people. Such deeds are really ridiculous and have been resisted by scientists and righteous people from all over the world. Their actions may deceive others for a while, but can they deceive the virus? Will the virus forgive them because of their lies? I'm afraid not! COVID-19 does not know politics, but the “political virus” those people created will further damage the credibility of their own country. I advise these people to respect facts and don’t forget the essential human nature of being kind and honest. I hope that governments of all countries focus on doing their own business, forget about finding “scapegoats” for negligence of their own duty, and not to throw the lives of the people of their own countries and those of others into a dangerous situation for the sake of their own political interests.

Thirdly, this pandemic also teaches us that solidarity and cooperation are our winning weapon facing such a global challenge. Globalization has turned the world into a village and all countries into a community with shared future. Confronted with a public health crisis like this pandemic, no country is capable of surviving alone. The reason why China has succeeded in fight against COVID-19 is inseparable from the support and cooperation from the international community, including the great support from the Dutch royal family, the Dutch government, enterprises and all sectors of the Dutch society. In the Netherlands, the government, parliaments and the public have repeatedly expressed their firm opposition to using COVID-19 as an excuse for racial discrimination against the Chinese people. The Chinese people will always remember those warmth and strength from you. As soon as COVID-19 began to spread to other countries, China has been trying its best to support and assist the international community. China has started very early to provide information about COVID-19 to the Netherlands. The leaders of our two countries have exchanged messages and calls, emphasizing the importance of mutual trust and cooperation. I myself have had an interview with a Dutch newspaper on February 3. On February 26 I hosted a special briefing to update how the fight against the virus in China was going and to share the experiences China has gained. From then on, the Chinese government and citizens have provided a lot of support to the Netherlands, including a special cargo air bridge between our countries to ensure essential medical supplies for your fight against COVID-19. Internationally, by mid-April, the Chinese government has been providing medical supplies to more than 140 countries and international organizations, and has sent 14 teams of medical experts to 12 countries. China has shared its experience of COVID-19 in infection prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment with 180 countries, more than 10 international and regional organizations in total. China has also held more than 80 video conferences with medical experts from more than 150 countries and international organizations. Various local governments, enterprises and civil society organizations from China have donated medical supplies to more than 100 countries, regions and international organizations. On top of an earlier cash donation of 20 million dollars to the WHO, China announced on April 23 to donate another 30 million dollars to WHO to help the global fight against the corona virus and health care system reform in some developing countries. At the same time, it’s our pleasure to see how the global and regional mechanisms, such as the United Nations, the WHO, the EU and the G20 , as well as many countries, are actively involved in co-operational fight against this virus, including science and tech cooperation to develop COVID-19 vaccines. All those collaborations show us the brotherly love needed when we are all in the same boat.

But we also noticed some discordant notes. Some country uses the epidemic as a political tool to suppress China. When the epidemic occurred in China, it gloated and preached about taking the opportunity to obtain economic benefits. After the epidemic spread to itself, it tried to shift responsibility to China. When China provided medical supplies to other countries, it said that China was "seeking geopolitical interests". When China strengthened its measures to ensure quality of exported medical supplies, it said that China "impedes other countries from obtaining medical supplies in urgent need". It not only turned a deaf ear to the warnings and appeals issued by WHO, but also attacked the WHO for being "China-centric", even announcing that it would "put a hold on funding to WHO", which is its international obligation. Some media full of political bias and maliciousness have also added fuel to the fire, politicize the epidemic and stigmatize China. People are wondering what they really want to do at this critical moment when the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world are in danger and the international community urgently needs solidarity and cooperation? Where is their bottom line of morality? However, for China and most countries in the world, our belief and adherence to justice will not be undermined. Our goal is very simple, which is to defeat the virus as soon as possible and save lives. It goes beyond any ideological and political considerations.

The pandemic is a disaster, but it’s also a warning. It inspired us to rethink the relationship between mankind and nature, human to human, government and society, country and country. The Chinese culture always advocates "following the laws of nature" and "integration of mankind and nature". The pandemic tells us once again that if the mankind wants to live in the world, we must live in harmony with nature. We need goodness instead of evil, inclusiveness instead of hatred, science instead of lies, and cooperation instead of confrontation. The Dutch philosopher Erasmus said, "Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself." I strongly believe that the glory of humanity will surely clear the haze of the epidemic, and we will be embraced by a brighter new world!

Xu Hong

Chinese Ambassador in the Netherlands

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