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Hardships more bearable with help of friends

By XING HAIMING | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-02-27 10:44


Support of neighbor warms hearts of Chinese people as they battle the novel coronavirus outbreak in the cold of winter

On Jan 30, the sixth day of the first lunar month, I embarked on a new mission to the Republic of Korea. I have worked in the ROK several times as a diplomat. But this time, helping to defeat the novel coronavirus is my top priority.

The outbreak of the pneumonia came suddenly and coincided with the traditional Chinese New Year holiday. The virus spread faster than expected, and the ROK government is very concerned about the outbreak and has paid great attention to the measures the Chinese authorities have taken to prevent and control it.

On the day of my arrival, reporters from several mainstream ROK media gathered around me as I walked out of the airport, asking for information on the epidemic. I told them: "The Chinese people are fighting against the virus under the in-person command of President Xi Jinping. We have made fruitful progress in all aspects of the work. We are confident and capable of overcoming the epidemic as soon as possible. We thank the government and people of South Korea for their support, and will continue to strengthen cooperation with the international community in an open, transparent and responsible manner. Also we will ensure the health and safety of all foreign nationals in China."

Over the next few days, I gave interviews to the ROK media and held a live news conference at the Chinese embassy to provide information on China's comprehensive measures to combat the virus. Major ROK media outlets broadcast the news conference live during prime time, and messages such as "the Chinese government has taken the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures" and "the epidemic is completely preventable, controllable and treatable" were widely shared by the ROK public opinion.

In the face of the outbreak of the virus, the ROK government and people have extended to China active support. In a telephone conversation with President Xi on Feb 20, ROK President Moon Jae-in expressed the ROK's sincere condolences to the Chinese people over the outbreak, saying that the ROK would stand firmly with China, continue to provide assistance for the fight against the virus and carry out epidemic prevention cooperation with China. In fact, in the early days of the outbreak, President Moon publicly declared on Feb 3 that China's difficulties are our difficulties. On Feb 7, he told me at a ceremony to receive my credentials: "To help one's neighbor is to help himself. We believe that under the leadership of President Xi, the Chinese people will overcome difficulties soon and achieve greater development."

The ROK government has provided emergent assistance to China and arranged flights to transport relevant materials to the frontline. On Feb 20, The ROK's new consul general in Wuhan, Kang Seung-seok, arrived to take up his post. In addition to government donations, the ROK enterprises and people have also extended helping hands: some helped purchase epidemic relief supplies, others donated meals for the frontline anti-epidemic personnel. The Chinese embassy has opened a special donation account and has received messages of support and donations from ordinary people from all walks of life in the ROK.

In the ROK, you can see "Come on China, Come on Wuhan" everywhere. Government officials, celebrities, ordinary people have all offered sincere blessings to China and Wuhan. Famous actress Lee Young-ae recorded a video extending her support to Chinese medical workers, and Park Wonsoon, the Seoul mayor, made a special video in which he said "it is time for Seoul to show its gratitude to China". The Lotte World Tower, the ROK's tallest skyscraper and a famous landmark, was illuminated with China's national flag and "Come on Wuhan".Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, former ROK prime minister Han Seung-soo, director of the Oscar winning movie Parasite Bong Joon-ho and actress Song Hye-kyo have also made videos offering their support to the Chinese people. What moved me most was an ordinary Korean kid who sent a letter to the embassy, hoping it could be passed on to the Chinese kids. He said: "I believe that difficulties will eventually pass and beautiful flowers will bloom wherever the wind blows."

During the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, many foreign leaders' schedules and international events held in China were suspended or postponed. But in July that year Roh Moohyun, the then ROK president, paid a state visit to China. I was involved in the reception as the division chief of China's Foreign Ministry. Roh said: "A long road seems shorter if you walk with good friends." In May 2015, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) broke out in the ROK, and many countries restricted their tourists to the ROK. However, based on an objective and scientific judgment, China did not take restrictive measures. The chairman of China's National People's Congress Standing Committee visited the ROK in June on schedule. I was in the retinue for that visit. A Korean friend spoke highly of this visit, saying that China showed it was a great and trustworthy neighbor.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is an international public health emergency. Recently, the number of confirmed cases in the ROK has also increased. China will actively share its experience and provide corresponding support. We believe that standing together, China and the ROK will be able to overcome the epidemic.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, with the care of the top leaders of the two countries and the joint efforts of both sides, China-ROK relations have developed by leaps and bounds. As China and the ROK have kept watching and helping each other, our relations have made remarkable achievements. With cooperation, both countries can overcome the virus and start a new chapter for our relationship.

The author is Chinese ambassador to the Republic of Korea. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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