Monday, May 18, 2020

习近平 团结合作战胜疫情 共同构建人类卫生健康共同体 [Xi Jinping, "Unity and cooperation to overcome the epidemic Work together to build a human health community"] 在第73届世界卫生大会视频会议开幕式上的致辞 [Speech at the opening ceremony of the video conference of the 73rd World Health Assembly]

The last few weeks has seen the management of the narrative of the history of the COVID-19 pandemic, and of its consequences, with respect to the accountability of states, and the legitimacy of key international bodies.  Much of this has been interpreted by Chinese officials as direct and indirect attacks on the integrity of the Chinese political-economic system, and as an indirect effort to thwart its international ambitions to attain a leading role in the development and management of global affairs (e.g., on the diplomatic response here, here, and here).

And, indeed, even as China has pressed forward with its official pandemic timeline, and has pressed forward with both its internal pandemic management procedures and external aid to foreigners, China has been the subject of criticism with respect to virtually all of its efforts by important foreign states and others.
[A]n EU report accuses China of spreading disinformation about the crisis. The bloc's External Action Service says Russia, and to a lesser extent China, have "targeted conspiracy narratives" in the EU and neighbouring countries. US President Donald Trump has also repeatedly attacked China for its handling of the outbreak, and the state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government, accusing it of doing little to stop the spread of the virus. (Coronavirus: China rejects call for probe into origins of disease).
And in recent weeks there had been growing pressure, rejected strenuously by Chinese officials, to constitute an autonomous inquiry body to investigate the source and handling of the pandemic (here, and here).

All of this has irritated Chinese officials, an irritation that has produced the sort of trade punishments that Chinese officials decried when it was applied against them by the Trump Administration (Fears of global trade war with China after Beijing slaps 80 per cent tariff on Australian exports starting TODAY as brutal payback over country's call for coronavirus inquiry backed by 100 nations including the UK). And has also appeared to make them less willing to cooperate with those advocates of accountability (China brands Trump, Pompeo and White House adviser Navarro as the 'lying trio' as it intensifies anti-US campaign due to coronavirus tensions). Much of this is motivated by suspicions of motives. Yet that is precisely what has motivated the criticisms by Western states about Chinese intentions and methods. The result has been the construction of anew form of "Iron Curtain" that increasingly splits two quite distinct world views, each increasingly suspicious of the other--and both fighting for dominance within the systems of international institutions that retain a measure of authority (and provide a means of amplifying the positions of either side within global systems of narrative or meaning making). One gets a sense of this from recent comments delivered by the US Secretary of State, M. Pompeo:
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China poses a risk to 'freedom-loving countries and democracies' with its global expansion drive in his latest blast against the Communist superpower. Pompeo said China had backed out of promises not to send warships to the South China Sea and 'diminished' the One Country, Two Systems policy in Hong Kong. He said China's actions take the dispute between the US and Beijing 'far beyond' coronavirus. Speaking to right-wing news site Breitbart, he said: 'What the Chinese Communist Party is doing, it goes so far beyond what’s happened in the time of this coronavirus. 'I think the American people, and I hope people all across the world, understand the risk to the globe—to freedom-loving countries and democracies around the world—that are presented by the actions of the Chinese Communist Party.' (Mike Pompeo warns that China is a danger to America and 'all freedom-loving countries' with global expansion drive and dispute with Beijing goes 'far beyond' coronavirus – as US joins international demands for inquiry into handling of disease)
Pandemic, then, has become critically intertwined with the core issues of the day: (1) decoupling of China and the US; (2) the European core increasingly playing a role on the sidelines (critically important to be sure, but still no longer at the center); (3) the (re)construction of post global empires built around control of vectors of global production from resource control through distribution and consumer sale; and (4) the control of the "language" (perhaps idiom might be a better term) of macro-economics--the power of currency regimes to order and discipline production (here one sees yuan internationalization, and dollar preeminence as a key to the identification and discipline of imperial control sectors).

Pandemic has created a convenient battlefield within which all of these collateral objectives can be advanced within the context of the challenges of COVID-19, responsibility of states for meeting that challenge, and the price of global aid. The World Health Organization has become an important space for conflict--directly about the pandemic, and indirectly about the shape of global governance and the hierarchies of power within that (those?) system(s). At its 73rd World Health Assembly, which commenced 18 May 2020, the WHO was faced with responding to calls for an independent inquiry. With pressure for a powerful independent body to investigate China (draft resolution here), and with Chinese rejection of any inquiry into its responsibility for and handling of the pandemic, the WHO Body was set to adopt a compromise approach that suggests the contours of the emerging tri-partite world order and its members (one in which China eventually acquiesced, see China bows to pressure, co-sponsors WHO resolution for Covid-19 probe (resolution sponsored by 130 states and drafted by the EU).
The World Health Organization will establish an independent and impartial inquiry into the source and handling of the coronavirus outbreak, once the pandemic is brought under control, a virtual meeting of its annual governing body was set to agree on Monday. The proposed inquiry, mirroring previous WHO-led inquiries such as the one following the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, arguably stops short of the fully independent inquiry sought by Australia and the US, but represents a compromise brokered by the European Union and India. (WHO to agree deal over future coronavirus inquiry: World Health Assembly review will have scope to examine role of China)
It is in this context that Xi Jinping's speech delivered at the opening ceremony of the video conference of the 73rd World Health Assembly, 18 March 2020, is worth careful consideration. That Speech, 团结合作战胜疫情 共同构建人类卫生健康共同体 [Unity and cooperation to overcome the epidemic Work together to build a human health community] follows below in full in the original Chinese along with a an English translation (Flora Sapio, translator), along with brief additional comments.

My observations (brief) about the speech:

1.  Xi begins with a concise summary of the Chinese position on the pandemic built around the core Chinese foreign policy line of mutually beneficial cooperation.  It is also meant to reinforce the Chinese discursive efforts to position itself as the "reasonable" power  in contradistinction to the American president who remains (and quite effectively among ruling cliques globally) the intemperate leader. Here one finds the key phrases: 
The virus has no borders, and the disease does not distinguish between races. In the face of the violent new pneumonia epidemic, the international community has not backed down. People of all countries bravely moved forward, watched for help, and stood in the same boat. They showed the love of the world and gathered the mighty power to fight the epidemic.
And, as has become a common discursive thread in Xi's speeches, that opening is then intimately tied to Chinese efforts, and more importantly, Chinese success.  The object, of course, is to align that success with two key objectives: (1) to reinforce the validity of Chinese claims for authoritative international leadership; and (2) to align that claim to the power of its political-economic system under the leadership of the CPC.

2. The middle section that operationalizes that claim to leadership. . . . by leading.  It includes a number of what are termed "suggestions" that are meant to evidence the power of the Chinese national vanguard as a vanguard suitable for global leadership.

First, do our best to prevent and control the epidemic situation. . . Second, give full play to the leadership role of WHO. . . Third, increase support for African countries. . . Fourth, strengthen global public health governance. . . Fifth, resume economic and social development. . . Sixth, strengthen international cooperation.
The six suggestions move seamlessly from the technical with its calls for transparency, information sharing and joint work ("We must adhere to the people-oriented, life-oriented, scientifically deploy medical forces"); to the utilization of international mass organizations (in this case the WHO and its leader whose ties to China has been criticized elsewhere, and "calls on the international community to increase its political support and financial input to WHO"); to the tilt toward a principal area of Chinese geo-strategic interests with respect to which recent Western efforts int he form of debt cancellations might threaten); to the reformulation of the parameters of global governance through international mass organization (the "adheres to the principle of objectivity and fairness" line); to the underlining of the Chinese foreign policy line of "all around" development targeting to economic, social and cultural issues and built into the core framework of the Belt and Road Initiative) ; and lastly to the underlining of the discursive framework for international relations ("Humanity is a community of destiny, and solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons to overcome the epidemic"). What emerges clearly is the alignment of these suggestions to both the discourse and objectives of Chinese efforts to reframe global governance away from its rights based and human dignity oriented discourse (the discourse of human rights and individual based sustainability) to a discourse of collectivity that is founded on development and collective advancement of economic, social, and cultural objectives.

3.  Perhaps the most important part of the speech was the last section, one in which President XI seeks to operationalize the critically important Chinese discursive foreign policy line--"building a community of human destiny." It is here that one can see more clearly drawn a Chinese vision for a post-global international ordering. The most interesting aspect of this building of a community of human destiny is the way in which it is intimately tied to and reflects the conceptual organization of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is not clear that there is much space between BRI as concept and action, and the new international order. It focuses first on foreign aid as an element of development, which includes meeting the challenges of disease. That incorporates the pledge respecting the vaccine, Chinese aid to developing states, and the issue of African debt forgiveness (which is a tricky issue especially for China at the moment especially as China seeks to develop to its advantage the mechanisms for debt relief). Second, it frames that aid around the economic power of China itself.  Here Xi proposes that China position itself as the hub of an global medical emergency production chain.  The result, of course, is that all such international efforts would then be centered n and driven by the Chinese. Again, the hub and spoke model is aligned with emerging notions of empire (both Chinese and American; see CPE EmpireSeries), but here it is nicely applied (and expanded) to the challenges of pandemic. 

While it is easy enough to dismiss speeches like this, that would be a mistake.  As President Xi has evidenced tome and again since the start of his leadership period, the development of the CPC line, and its expression as elements of the emerging New Era theory that guides the policy development of the Chinese state apparatus, is almost invariably tied to key phrases and approaches usually developed in and through the speeches of Mr. Xi. This speech provides a case in point.  Under threat to its global ambitions, Mr. Xi has here quite nicely crystallized New Era Theory respecting China's place in the world order, and the ideological framing of such engagement. He has explained both the basis and the manifestation of the Chinese vision of building  a "community for mankind" the the framing principle of the post-global international order--collective, institutional, algorithmic ("scientific"), and vanguard driven.


2020-05-18 20:05:06 来源: 新华网
中华人民共和国主席 习近平

  5月18日,国家主席习近平在第73届世界卫生大会视频会议开幕式上发表题为《团结合作战胜疫情 共同构建人类卫生健康共同体》的致辞。 新华社记者 李学仁 摄
【纠错】 责任编辑: 尹

Xi Jinping's speech at the opening ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly video conference (full text)
2020-05-18 20:05:06 Source: Xinhuanet

Unity and cooperation to overcome the epidemic

Work together to build a human health community

——Speech at the opening ceremony of the video conference of the 73rd World Health Assembly

(May 18, 2020, Beijing)

President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping

(Shi Zheng) Xi Jinping Addresses the Opening Ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly Video Conference

On May 18th, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech entitled "Unite and cooperate to overcome the epidemic build a human health and health community" at the opening ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly video conference. Xinhua News Agency reporter Li Xueren photo

Mr. President of the Assembly,

Mr. Director General of the World Health Organization,


First of all, I think that it is of great significance to hold this WHO Conference at a critical moment when mankind is fighting against the new coronavirus epidemic!

Mankind is experiencing the worst global public health emergency since the end of World War II. The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 has now spread to 210 countries and regions, affecting 70 million people, and taking more than 30.000 precious lives. Here, I would like to solemnly express my condolences to those who sadly died! I would like to express my condolences to their families!

The history of human civilization is also a history of struggle against disease and disaster. The virus has no borders, and the disease does not distinguish between races. In the face of the torrentially violent epidemic of Covid-19, the international society has not backed down. People of all countries bravely moved forward, helped one another, standing on the same boat through wind and rain, demonstrating great love between persons, bringing together the majestic power of the fight against the epidemic.

With hard work and at a great cost, China has effectively reversed the epidemic situation and safeguarded the safety of people ’s lives and their health. China has always kept an open, transparent and responsible attitude, it has timely notified the WHO and relevant countries with information about the situation of the epidemic, disseminating information such as the genetic sequence of the virus as soon as possible, sharing without reservation experiences about prevention, control and rescue with all parties, it has already provided ample support and help, according to its capabilities, to countries in need.

Mr. President!

Now, the epidemic is still spreading, and prevention and control still need diligence. I would like to make the following suggestions.

First, prevent and control the epidemic situation with full force. This is a matter of urgency. We must uphold taking the people (min – lowly people, the commoners) as the root, life above everything, scientifically deploy medical forces and important materials, taking vigorous measures in protection, isolation, detection, treatment and follow-up and in other important fields; contain as soon as possible the world-wide spread of the epidemic; do our best to stop the cross-border spread of the epidemic. [We] must strengthen information sharing, exchange useful experiences and practices, carry out international cooperation in detection methods, clinical treatment, and vaccine research and development, and continue to support scientists from all countries to carry out global scientific research on the source and the spread of the virus.

Second, give full play to the leadership role of WHO. Under the leadership of Director General Tan Desai, WHO has made significant contributions to the leadership and the advancement international anti-epidemic cooperation, which is highly appreciated by international society. At he moment, international anti-epidemic is at a critical stage. Supporting WHO is supporting international anti-epidemic cooperation, supporting saving lives. China calls on the international society to increase its political support and financial input to WHO, mobilize global resources, and win the battle against the epidemic.

Third, increase support for African countries. The public health systems of developing countries, especially African countries, are weak, and helping them build a line of defense is the top priority of the international fight against epidemics. We should provide more material, technical and human support to African countries. China has delivered a large amount of medical aid materials to more than 50 African countries and the African Union, and has specially dispatched 5 teams of medical experts. Over the past 70 years, the Chinese medical team sent to Africa have provided medical services to more than 200 million people in Africa. Currently, 46 Chinese medical teams stationed in Africa are investing in local anti-epidemic operations.

 Fourth, strengthen the global governance of public health. Mankind will eventually overcome the epidemic, but this is not the last major public health emergency for mankind. In view of the shortcomings and deficiencies exposed by the epidemic, we must improve the public health safety governance system, increase the speed of public health emergency response, and establish global and regional stockpiles of supplies. China supports a comprehensive assessment of the global response to the epidemic after the global epidemic has been brought under control, summing up experience, and making up for deficiencies. This work requires a scientific and professional attitude, requires WHO guidance (zhudao), and adheres to the principle of objectivity and fairness.

Fifth, resume economic and social development. Countries with conditions should respect the WHO ’s professional recommendations and carry out resumption of work in an orderly manner under the premise of normalizing epidemic prevention and control. [We] must strengthen the coordination of international macroeconomic policies, maintain the stability of the global industrial chain supply chains, and try to restore the world economy.

 Sixth, strengthen international cooperation. Mankind is a community with a shared destiny, and solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons to overcome the epidemic. This is an important experience gained by the international community in combating major epidemics such as AIDS, Ebola, avian influenza, and the H1N1 influenza. It is the right way for the people of all countries to cooperate in combating epidemics.

Mr. President!

China has always adhered to the concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind. It is not only responsible for the safety and health of its people, but also for the cause of global public health. To promote global anti-epidemic cooperation, I declare:

  - China will provide within two years 20 billion dollars of international assistance, to be used to support countries affected by the epidemic, particularly developing countries, in the struggle to fight the epidemic, as well as for economic and social recovery and development.

  - China will work with the United Nations, to establish the Global Humanitarian Response Depot and Hub in China, diligently guaranteeing supply chain of materials to fight the epidemic and creating a green channel for transportation and customs clearance!

- China will establish a hospital cooperation mechanism with 30 african counterparts, accelerate the construction of the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control, help Africa enhance disease prevention and control capabilities.

- When China's research and development on the new coronavirus will be completed and put into use, it shall become a global public good, to realize China’s accessible and “bearable” (sustainable?) contribution to the countries that are still developing a vaccine.

- China will work with G20 members to implement the “G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative”, and join international society to increase support for those countries where the epidemic is serious, and the pressure is particularly heavy, to help them overcome their present difficulties.

I call on us to join hands to jointly protect the lives and health of people of all countries, to protect the common earth homeland of mankind, and to jointly build a health and hygiene community for mankind!

 thank you all.

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