By Fernando Gorraez Alejandre
Editor's note: Mexican Navy Captain Fernando Gorraez Alejandre is a senior officer with two master's degrees and has had research experience in Mexico and the US. He is now undergoing Defence and Strategic Studies Course in International College of Defense Studies, National Defense University of China’s People’s Liberation Army. The article reflects the author´s opinions based on academy research and not necessarily the views of Mexico, Mexican Navy, or chinamil.com.cn.
In these days, a new virus named COVID-19 has reached over 160 countriesand regions. Through the fight against COVID-19, health security has become very important for a nation’s existence.
Today, new diseases have abilities to spread very easily because of globalization, they can travel from communities to communities without detection and some diseases might have incubation periods that allow them to hide in human bodies for many days. It is also true, that globalization facilitates the combat against the new diseases, since nations with multilateral visions and of common interestswould share efforts to fight the diseases and prevent their spreads.
Multilateralism is the current key to tackle the new diseases through information sharing and even resource sharing, as demonstrated in the emergence of SARS in 2003 and in China’s fight against COVID-19.
China has set up a good example to demonstrate how in contemporary times a government with a multilateral vision, global responsibility and support of its "committed citizens" is managing to cope with this epidemic.This is where the social contract, put forward by Thomas Hobbes, shows its importance. On one hand, the Chinese government has made every effort to protect its own people from the threat; on the other hand, the Chinese people have supported their government through obedience and trust towards the decisions made. Meanwhile in South Korea, the lack of commitment of citizens, motivated by religious beliefs, has led to the spread of the virus, putting the entire nation at risk.
According to the doctrine of crisis management, the most important thing for leaders and decision-makers is to contain the threat and preventits escalation. China's leaders took the right decision to isolate Hubei province, in order to contain the virus's propagation. This decision was criticized by tabloids, which seek to smear the Chinese government, alluding to an abuse of authority and disrespect for the human rights of citizens in that province. It is important to note that any nation to deal with such an extreme situation hasthe legal authority to take such measures. In this case, China has this attribution established in its constitution in Article 89, paragraph 16.
This action, now, is replicated in other nations such as Italy, which has extended coronavirus lockdown to entire country. This proved that the Chinese government's action was correct, necessary and legal. Meanwhile, more and more countries begin taking actions within their legal powers to maintain the national health security.
It is also important that the decision-makers must have an information system that provides verified facts.Chinese authorities had the necessary, confirmed and validated information to make decisions in order to prevent the virus’sspread.
However, China’s decision-making was also criticized by international media, blaming the Chinese government for delayed disclosurebased on economic interests. Such opinions reflected their ignorance of national crisis management. Information in a crisis situationisvague and changing, high-level decisions must be well supported because they may produce implications affecting societal, political, economic, technological and military fields.
As mentioned above, in order to deal with a non-traditional crisis, multilateralism features information and resource sharing is necessary. This process should begin as soon as the crisis is declared by the competent authority ofthe country where the crisis breaks out. Shared information must be confirmed, clear, specific and detailed.
During the present emergency, China has acted with global responsibility. It properly informed international community about the current situation, allowing other nations to make appropriate preparations. It also maintained an open-door policy, welcoming the visits of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), to share its experiences through a supranational institution without political interest. It is shown that China supports the WHO’s leadership in strengthening epidemic monitoring and sharing information about effective practices, which is the best way to combat an epidemic globally.
WHO has been the international voice that endorsed Chinese government’s actions to deal with COVID-19, it moderated some international voices that accused China of lacking health control, resulting in the emergence of the virus, and argued for the virus transmission from bats to humans. Also, WHO declares that no conclusions should be made if they are not based on scientific evidence.
China has no hesitationin using all its societal, political, economic, technological and military resources to address this threat. This demonstrates its high resilience and shows how a committed government is managing to contain the virus at higher levels.
For example, China has built two new hospitals for coronavirus patients with more than 1000 beds each, in a very short period of time, and established makeshift hospitals for patients with mild symptoms at convention and sports centers. In addition, large numbers of military medics were mobilized from different places to Wuhan, through an unprecedented air transport operation. Military resources were first to be deployed by the authorities in this emergency, because the military personnel’s high-level commitment and training allow them to give prompt response to any type of threat.
At the moment, the number of contagions outside Hubei province has declined markedly, so the government has initiated measures to recover economic activities. It is also providing economic supports to micro, small and medium-sized industries through preferential-rate loans.
China, as amajor economy for the world and one with a multilateral vision, has begun to activate its industrial production in order to lessen the effects of product shortages on global supply chains.
More importantly, China is now supporting other nations to combat COVID-19, sending specialized medical personnel and medical equipment needed to other countries as Iran and Italy. Web seminars have also been made to share the knowledge of the treatment against COVID-19. This again shows China’s commitment to the international community to establish a new world order and construct a community of shared future for humankind.
As a great power, what is the case with the United States? With a tendency line of confirmed cases increasing exponentially, how will the country be effected?
US is the world's first economy and yet its health safety policy is based on a system of private providers. There are no public hospitals with large-capabilities, and access to medical services is through private insurance, with public insurance almost none.
As we have seen so far, the success in containing COVID-19 is based on using the large-scale public medical infrastructure, as China has done, since its health system is designed that way, what is known as a universal health system. Similar systems are found in countries such as France, Norway and also in Mexico.
But in the United States, for any medical treatment, whether it's cancer, a top-notch operation, a car accident or even a broken arm emergency, you're required to have health insurance to cover the costs.
At the same time, the US is a nation with large numbers of illegal immigrants, which has established very strict migration policies and carried out mass deportations of immigrants, generating fear of this social group that keeps them hidden from the authorities.
In my opinion, COVID-19 in US will have greater effects than in China,because the lack of access to public medical services, the high cost of private medical services and the migrant´s fear to the authority will decrease people’s intention to access to medical care, causing a greater spread of COVID-19.
Health safety satisfies people´s most important aspiration, that is, to have an adequate health system that raises their standard of living, maintaining a social stability that will result in greater national development. Globalization has made global disease transmission easier, putting more people at risk. But also, globalization allows combat against diseases more quickly and more efficiently.
A multilateral vision is necessary to address new health threats, as nations of mutual benefits would face and combat new diseases together. In summary, China´s success to contain and combat COVID-19 is due to:
Government and people’scommitment to each other through a full social contract.
An exceptional crisis management demonstrating its overall responsibility for the whole humanity.
China's actions to help other nations with medics, medical materials and knowledge to combat COVID-19 demonstrate its commitment to humanity and the importanceof building an international community with a shared future for mankind.