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Xi's WHA speech wins acclaim across world

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-05-20 07:09
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President Xi Jinping delivers a speech via video link on Monday in Beijing at the opening of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly. [Photo/Xinhua]

The speech by President Xi Jinping at the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, has won international applause as world leaders called for solidarity in fighting COVID-19.

In his speech to the assembly on Monday, Xi outlined China's vision and support for the global fight against the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 4.6 million people and killed more than 300,000 people worldwide.

Xi pledged that China will provide $2 billion over two years to help with COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, in particular developing nations.

"The message from President Xi Jinping has inspired us so much to fight the pandemic," Bounkong Syhavong, president of the 72nd session of the WHA, told the assembly, attended online by representatives from 194 member states.

The assembly elected Keva Bain, permanent representative of the Bahamas to the United Nations in Geneva, as the president of the 73rd session.

Five vice-presidents were also elected from China, Republic of Congo, San Marino, Sudan and Thailand, the WHO said on Monday.

Syhavong, who is also minister of health of Laos, said that people are pleased to learn about China's success in fighting COVID-19 as well as its participation in global efforts to fight the virus.

He praised China for playing an important role in providing valuable assistance, such as in medical equipment and expertise, to developing countries.

"They have also supported the World Health Organization to take charge of the global effort that is needed at this difficult time," he added.

Syhavong said that people highly value Xi's concept of a community of health for humankind, adding that China has demonstrated the true spirit of global partnership and humanity. "We appreciate that," he said.

His opinion was widely shared by many opinion leaders worldwide.

"President Xi's words are directing China to support the WHO and global needs, especially in developing nations. We need such leadership and concrete support across the world," said Stephen Perry, chairman of The 48 Group Club, a British organization promoting commercial, cultural and educational relations with China.

"We need a good global response to COVID-19 and China has made its contribution quickly and substantially", he added.

Lee Jung-nam, a professor at the Asiatic Research Institute at Korea University in Seoul, said, "President Xi's speech and China's experience show that China values its people's lives and it has developed a mature system to cope with health emergencies."

China notified the world and shared knowledge of the pandemic in a timely manner. And it also helped a lot of countries to combat the outbreak with both medical supplies and firsthand information, Lee said.

Igor Shatrov, deputy director of Russia's National Institute for the Development of Modern Ideology, said what President Xi said in his speech shows that only united coordination by the whole world can conquer the pandemic as well as other common challenges.

Shatrov said China has strengthened its support for the WHO, which will help the latter to effectively lead the international community in facing more major global health problems.

Serik Korzhumbayev, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Delovoy Kazakhstan, said the Chinese leadership has taken efficient, science-based and transparent measures to ensure the country's great success in bringing the COVID-19 epidemic under control.

He said he was impressed by the proposals made by President Xi during his speech, which demonstrated China's determination and commitment to boost international epidemic cooperation.

Chen Xulong, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, said Xi mentioned the WHO many times during his speech and made it clear that "supporting the WHO is to support international cooperation in virus prevention and saving lives".

"It is also worth noting that developing countries, especially African countries, were mentioned in his speech. President Xi emphasized that helping them to combat the virus is now an international priority," Chen said, adding that these remarks reflect China's consistent foreign policy of supporting multilateralism and safeguarding the common interests of all mankind.

In his speech, Xi said COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good. This will be China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

To achieve that impact, Ben Cavender, managing director of the China Market Research Group, called for the early availability of vaccines from China, saying it is a positive act of goodwill for China to share with the world its vaccine development progress, and it would be seen as a genuine attempt at supporting a global recovery.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said virtually no country has been spared by the pandemic and no country can solve the problem alone.

"We must work together," she said.

Merkel said that the WHO is the legitimate world organization for the area of health, adding that the world should continue to work to improve procedures within the WHO and look at its financing to ensure it is sustainable.

The US government has halted most of its funding to the WHO, drawing widespread international condemnation.

"I am convinced that we will be able to overcome this pandemic when we work together, and that will help us to achieve this more rapidly," Merkel said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the pandemic has highlighted the dangerous and growing inequality that exists between countries and within them.

"Africa is extremely vulnerable to the ravages of this virus, and needs every possible support and assistance," he said.

Ramaphosa, who is also chair of the African Union, said Africa affirms its full support for the WHO, which has been key in guiding the international response to the pandemic.

South Korean President Moon Jaein said that to safeguard the health of humanity, his country will continue to work closely with the WHO.

"In the face of this crisis, humankind must choose solidarity and cooperation over the pursuit of individual interests. The world must unite under the banner of mutual trust and inclusiveness in the face of deepening crisis," he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the 73rd session of the WHA the most important assembly in the history of the WHO.

"It must be a moment for unity and a moment for solidarity, but also a moment for clear thought and action in the face of what is an unprecedented global crisis affecting all of us," he said.

Han Baoyi, Wang Mingjie in London, Ren Qi in Moscow and Pan Mengqi in Beijing contributed to this story.

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