Model for being stronger together
The fight against the novel coronavirus has opened up a new chapter for China-Vanuatu relations
The novel coronavirus pandemic poses a grave threat to human life and health. In the fight against the pandemic, China and Vanuatu have looked out for each other and battled hand in hand, setting a model for joint pandemic response.
At the time when the situation in China was at its worst, Prime Minister Bob Loughman, former prime minister Charlot Salwai and other Vanuatu leaders expressed sympathy to the Chinese government and people. They highly commended the measures undertaken by China and the notable achievement made in largely containing the virus. They openly opposed discrimination and xenophobia in responding to COVID-19.
Despite its own fiscal strains, the Vanuatu government made a cash donation to help China tide over its difficulties, which was the first donation to China in the name of a national government among Pacific island countries. That was not all. Vanuatu provincial and municipal governments, non-government organizations, businesses and students made videos to cheer on China. At the 73rd World Health Assembly, Vanuatu reaffirmed its support for the one-China principle and appreciated China's contribution to international cooperation against COVID-19.
As the novel coronavirus has spread around the world, Vanuatu, with a poor public health system, is also facing grave challenges. Worse, Category 5 tropical cyclone, Harold, and the volcanic ash falling on Tanna Island have caused widespread destruction in Vanuatu. Chinese governments at various levels have come together to help Vanuatu, providing timely assistance to meet the immediate needs of its government and people in the form of food, cash, equipment, such as testing kits and protective suits, and other disaster relief assistance.
In March, China invited Vanuatu to a videoconference sharing its experience in the prevention and control of COVID-19. In April, a chartered flight from China arrived with medical supplies to help boost Vanuatu's fight against COVID-19.
In May, China and Pacific island countries, including Vanuatu, held a vice-ministers' special meeting via video link to build a consensus on how to strengthen cooperation against the pandemic. In June, China handed over three advanced customs inspection systems to Vanuatu, helping the country strengthen its border control capability.
The Chinese embassy in Vanuatu continues to provide the latest information and diagnostic and therapeutic protocols on COVID-19 to the Vanuatu government and media outlets.
Two Chinese medical teams are working hand-in-hand with their Vanuatu counterparts on the front line against COVID-19.Chinese community in Vanuatu and Chinese enterprises have organized charity programs to help Vanuatu residents affected by COVID-19 and other disasters. China has also provided assistance to students from Vanuatu studying in China.
It is gratifying to see that thanks to the efforts of the Vanuatu government and people, and the assistance China and other partners have provided, Vanuatu remains free of infections.
The governments of China and Vanuatu are committed to safeguarding public health security, enhancing economic and social development and opening a new chapter for the China-Vanuatu Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Both countries are increasing overall policy coordination based on each other's development strategies, focusing on productive sectors, infrastructure, public health, education and training that hold the key to promoting Vanuatu's resilience and sustainable development.
China will continue helping Vanuatu improve its public health system and preparedness, tapping into the potential for cooperation in medical care and traditional Chinese medicine.
China will extend $2 billion over two years to help with global COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries. These will inject new impetus into the prevention and control cooperation between China and Vanuatu.
The two sides will also make full use of bilateral agreements signed in recent years-including those on civil air transport, fishery, infrastructure, investment and production capacity, and e-commerce and such bilateral mechanisms as the Joint Economic and Trade Commission－to consolidate cooperation within the Belt and Road Initiative.
The two countries are engaged in close consultations on facilitating movements of necessary supplies and personnel to support projects, thus minimizing the economic impact of the pandemic. The on-going Phase II of the Tanna and Malekula Road Project and the Pentecost Road and Jetty Project will play a very important role in Vanuatu's post-disaster recovery and long-term development.
The Vanuatu government has designated Chinese as the first foreign language to be taught in Vanuatu schools and is planning to set up a Confucius Institute there. China will keep providing Chinese Government Scholarships to outstanding Vanuatu students and inviting Vanuatu people to participate in training programs.
The darkest hour will pass. Looking ahead, we can see bright lights and hope. I am confident that after this pandemic, the China-Vanuatu friendship will be stronger than ever before and our bilateral relationship will embark on higher stages.
The author is the Chinese ambassador to Vanuatu. 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.