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China partnerships building a shared future

By Mark Suzman | | Updated: 2018-09-06 17:31

2018 marks a significant year for China. As the nation continues to make progress toward its goal of eradicating extreme poverty domestically by 2020, it is also preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening-up policy, which has led the country on a journey to become the world’s second-largest economy.

Since the inauguration of our office here in 2007, we at the Bill & Melinda Gates have been proud to support China on this journey as it addresses its remaining health and development challenges, focusing on issues like HIV, tuberculosis, tobacco control and most recently, the “last mile” of the fight against extreme poverty. We are working with Chinese partners to pilot innovative interventions in child nutrition, primary healthcare and financial services for the poor.

But 2018 isn’t just an important year for China domestically; the country also continues to take a more important role on the global stage in matters such as energy, climate and global health and development. Earlier this year, the State International Development Cooperation Agency was established to plan and execute China’s foreign aid work in a holistic way for the first time in China’s history. The triennial summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held in Beijing this month, bringing together 53 African leaders to outline pathways to creating a community with a shared future.

All these exciting developments have only reinforced China’s potential as a positive catalyst for development worldwide.

Consider malaria. China has a remarkable track record of fighting the disease, which continues to kill hundreds of thousands of children each year in Africa. Over the past 60 years, China has reduced malaria cases within its borders from 30 million a year to zero.

It’s not just that China has extraordinary experience controlling the disease. China is also the main source of the science that makes control possible. The Chinese scientist Tu Youyou won a Nobel Prize for discovering artemisinin, the gold standard treatment for malaria around the world. China is also among the world’s largest suppliers of insecticide-treated bed nets, which have prevented well over 500 million cases of malaria in just over a decade.

The Gates Foundation is working with partners such as the Ministry of Commerce and the National Health Commission to deliver high-quality, low-cost, Chinese-made malaria commodities, to encourage China to help fill the global gap in malaria funding, and to apply China’s experience in disease surveillance and response systems to local communities with high malaria incidence across the African continent.

But malaria is only one area where China can lead the world. China’s expertise in drug discovery inspired us to help create the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute, in partnership with the Beijing municipal government and Tsinghua University, to develop new drugs for diseases such as tuberculosis that disproportionately affect people living in low-income countries.

We also provided technical support for China-developed and manufactured vaccines, including the Japanese encephalitis vaccine and a more effective polio vaccine, both of which have been prequalified by the World Health Organization and have already sold hundreds of millions of doses outside China. These vaccines are safe, effective and affordable, which makes them ideal for global health campaigns.

China also serves as one of the best examples of economic growth driven by agricultural transformation, and this too can help transform Africa. Since 2016, the Gates Foundation has been working with MOFCOM and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to support Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers set up by China in Mozambique and Zambia. Our goal is to pilot a model where China’s expertise in crop breeding, mechanization and technology extension can be applied to local conditions and generate systemic change in different African contexts.

With China embracing its ability to advance progress on the most urgent challenges Africa faces, the just-closed FOCAC summit serves as yet another milestone for driving deeper China-Africa collaboration. Most importantly, it sets an example for the future of development cooperation as China sets its sights on becoming an even stronger leader in the field.

We at the Gates Foundation feel privileged to have become part of China’s important journey. As we usher in the second decade of our partnership with the country, we look to continue to contribute in our own ways and support China in fulfilling its full potential to create a shared future for all.

Mark Suzman is the chief strategy officer and president for global policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation.

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