United against COVID-19: Turn over new chapters with joint efforts

Editors Note: The following article was written by His Excellency Zhang Lizhong, the Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives. The article is recorded here as originally written. No changes have been made in phraseology, structure or punctuation.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Malé entered the stage of community transmission and lockdown of the city, the Chinese Embassy, as a member of the city, has shared the joy and sorrow with Malé citizens together. On May 10, I twitted that I hope we will not only share development fruits in good times, but will also be together in difficult times. This is an observation I made on China-Maldives relations during the pandemic. Every day we may have to be concerned about a possible shortage of living supplies and try to solve it. We pay close attention to the development of the pandemic and the effects of prevention and control efforts. We are moved by the dedication of the medical workers who have risked their lives to fight the pandemic.

As a diplomatic mission, we stand ready to provide assistance to the stranded Chinese tourists and the Chinese staff working on resort islands. We are always concerned about the security of Chinese companies and health of their personnel who are engaged in the projects of Belt and Road Initiative in Maldives. We have coordinated with Chinese companies, along with the effort the Chinese government to offer assistance to the Maldives. The active efforts of Chinese companies to help Maldives overcome the epidemic are touching. In short, although we are not at the frontline as medical workers, we are at the frontline of China-Maldives cooperation in fighting the pandemic.

We are glad to see that the prevention and control measures in Maldives are making progress and the Maldivian government is gradually lifting the lockdown measures step by step. Recently, I spoke with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Maldives and representatives of the tourism industry, and discussed the cooperation between the two countries in fighting the pandemic and economic recovery. Maldivian friends said that we have to live with the pandemic for a while. In my view, we are entering a new normal. The normalization of the pandemic prevention and control and economic recovery will be the two fronts for a period of time to come. China and Maldives can cooperate in the following areas.

First, we should cooperate further to fight the pandemic. I agree with Foreign Minister Shahid on his recent tweet that the public should remain vigilant and cautious to the pandemic. Maldives is a popular tourist destination, and effective control of the epidemic is crucial to people’s confidence. China will continue to provide medical supplies and equipment, share experience and help improve the testing capacity of Maldives.

Second, we should resume the operation of cooperation projects as the situation allows. The advantage is that from the early days of the pandemic, Chinese companies have taken strict preventive and control measures, ensuring staffs and workers free of infection so far.

Third, we should strengthen the inter-governmental coordination. The two sides are discussing to establish an inter-governmental coordination mechanism to create conditions for the ease of movement of people and flow of goods between our two countries.

President Xi Jinping pointed out that solidarity and cooperation are the most effective weapons against the virus. The most important thing we could learn from COVID-19 is that the life and health of people in different countries have never been so closely connected, humanity is in fact a community with a shared future. Countries must rise above differences in geography, race, history, culture and social system. We must work together for a community with a shared future.

As friendly neighbors, China and Maldives have always supported and helped each other since the outbreak of the pandemic, which shows the traditional friendship between the two countries in sharing weal and woe. Our respective successful practice of fighting COVID-19 and valuable experience of cooperation on COVID-19 response will further build up the profound friendship between our two peoples, vigorously promote cooperation on major projects during the new normal of COVID-19 response, and lay a solid foundation for the long-term development of China-Maldives relations in the post-pandemic era.