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Bush charity rallies virus aid

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-02-17 23:54




Millions of face masks headed to China thanks to Bush foundation effort

In less than a month after its formation, the US-China Coronavirus Action Network (US-China CAN), initiated by the George H. W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations (the Bush China Foundation) in the last week of January, is producing concrete results to help China combat the novel coronavirus.

Working with a private-sector partner, Asia and America Consultants, the US-China CAN facilitated the procurement and shipment of 550,000 US-produced medical-grade surgical masks to the Beijing and Chengdu governments for distribution within the first week.

Approached by the US-China Business Council, the network united different forces in securing 2 million masks to donate as an overt gesture of goodwill and support by the US business community to China last week.

"There is a Chinese saying: 'feng yu tong zhou' — 'wind and rain, we all are in the same boat,'" said David Firestein, president and CEO of the Bush China Foundation. "This is exactly how we see the present crisis: We are all in this together. We at the Bush China Foundation will do everything we can to help our Chinese friends cope with the challenges posed by this virus."

"Working to help fight and defeat COVID-19 is going to be our foundation's top priority for as long as it's necessary and as long as we can add value in helping China cope with this public health crisis," Firestein continued.

Robbin Goodman, director of business programs and corporate affairs at the Bush China Foundation, is the primary organizer of US-China CAN.

"It's difficult to pin down the exact number of people and organizations involved because the way we built the network as quickly and effectively as possible was by tapping into and linking a diverse group of previously isolated existing networks. Roughly within the first 24 hours, 48 hours, of the initiative, we reached over 1,000 contacts worldwide. Many responded and are actively working with us," Goodman said.

The network includes large corporation, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and individual volunteers across the world, according to Goodman, and he said the list is growing daily.

"Every day we are connecting with new organizations and individuals who are joining the network to take action to fight the coronavirus," he said.

Goodman said that the Bush China Foundation is currently working with both US and Chinese foundations and private-sector partners to provide at least another 7 million masks this coming week to China and an anticipated 10 million or more over the next month.

"What we have seen very clearly over the last couple of weeks is that many, many Americans care about the situation in China and want to help in any way they can," said Firestein. "The niche that we are filling with our US-China CAN effort is to connect questions with answers and needs with capacity while increasing overall coordination and efficiency and reducing redundancy of effort."

For example, through the Silk Road International Chamber of Commerce based in Hong Kong and Xi'an, US-China CAN is able to reach out to more than 20 countries. Masks and other medical supplies have been identified in and procured from countries including Panama, Mexico, Turkey and the US.

Last week's 2 million masks were paid for by Walmart and Chubb and shipped for free by FedEx. Union Logistica SA and Asia and America Consultants assisted in locating a reliable source for the masks. In China, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries is helping to get the supplies to the right people, according to Firestein.

The US-China CAN is also working to help China to better diagnose the virus.

Z Lab Global of Houston, Texas, led by Dr Sunny Zhang, a member of the Bush China Foundation board of advisers, quickly identified an early detection kit that can deliver results much faster. The Bush China Foundation, through US-China CAN, is working to increase access to diagnostic kits by providing actionable information to relevant Chinese officials and assisting with the sourcing of funds, said Goodman.

While acknowledging that the development of a vaccine is likely the strongest tool in the long-term fight against the virus, members of US-China CAN also anticipate numerous policy-level impediments to rapidly deploying the vaccine and are working to help overcome such hurdles.

"Our foundation, through US-China CAN, is also serving as a conduit to get actionable information relating to potential COVID-19 vaccine candidates to relevant Chinese policymakers on an expeditious basis," said Firestein.

The Bush China Foundation's ability to organize quickly and take concrete steps that result in meaningful actions is no accident. Working with China to fight infectious diseases has been a core focus of the organization since the beginning.

In 2003 during the first George H. W. Bush Conference on US-China Relations, Chinese and US researchers and scholars discussed collaborative research opportunities in various strategic areas including global public health and the SARS epidemic.

For the past 17 years, dialogues on US-China cooperation on infectious diseases have remained a major focus in its biennial conference.

"In 2015, the Bush China Conference focused exclusively on the critical role of the United States and China in preventing, preparing for and responding to emerging infectious diseases and pandemics," said Goodman.

Last week, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai expressed thanks to the US business community for its shipment of 2 million masks to China.

"That gracious expression of gratitude has inspired us to work even harder, in partnership with our friends in China, to combat this virus," said Firestein.

Goodman said that any individuals, organizations and companies who want to take action to help fight the humanitarian crisis can reach out to him by telephone at (361) 461-2368, by email at rgoodman@bushchinafoundation.org or at his WeChat account, RobbinGoodman.

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