Building a common community in the fight against COVID-19 by tightening cultural ties

Sun Yixue
Sincere global solidarity and cooperation should be the most powerful weapon to fight this common enemy of all human beings.
Sun Yixue

As the COVID-19 continues to ravage many countries outside China, sincere global solidarity and cooperation should be the most powerful weapon to fight this common enemy of all human beings.

Unfortunately, some countries and politicians, out of their ulterior motives and selfish interests, threaten to derail the global anti-virus fight by propagating prejudices or even falsehoods.

This makes it difficult for China to share in a timely manner with the rest of the world its anti-epidemic experience gained at a great cost.

In spite of this, as a responsible country, China continues to beef up its cooperative effort with other nations, which ranges from dispatching medical teams, donating medical supplies to providing updates on the pandemic in a timely manner. On the diplomatic front, China is also trying to clear up the situation by publicizing facts about its COVID-19 containment endeavor.

In this aspect the Belt and Road Initiative could prove to be a major artery in enhancing mutual trust and help between China and the rest of the world, by narrating China’s anti-virus stories and promoting global cooperation in the COVID-19 fight.

In the time of COVID-19 and after the pandemic, China and the BRI countries should build on the cooperative momentum as a result of the initiative.

We should go on to envision an anti-COVID-19 community within the framework of building a community with a shared future for humanity, by taking advantage of what cultural diplomacy could achieve in promoting solidarity among people.

Specifically, on the strengths of deepening and consolidating the BRI cooperation, in view of the general situation and regional demand in fighting the pandemic, efforts should be made in building a platform facilitating the sharing of relevant supplies, data and experience, with a view to creating mechanisms conducive to unified public discourse and internal cooperation for epidemic control.

This could provide a valuable paradigm for battling the virus and for reverting to normality in life and work in the global context.

Challenges

Challenges remain. For one thing, the BRI diplomacy needs to take into account more of the unique conditions of the BRI countries and regions. As it is known, the BRI involves, among others, countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Northeast Asia and Central Asia, suggesting great diversity in culture, political system and economic development. Furthermore, their unique history and ethnic makeup mean that, in spite of general consensus on the BRI, there is considerable variance in the perception of BRI.

In this context, the outbreak of COVID-19 in a sense adds to the difficulties confronting China in proceeding with the BRI. In view of the new situation, the BRI should be informed by a holistic vision in terms of economy of scale as well as a better understanding of unique local conditions.

And this is where culture comes in. Greater attention should turn to the “soft” features of cultural exchanges, so as to give fuller play to the uplifting yet invisible role culture plays in facilitating mutual understanding.

So long if China and the BRI countries could seek common ground while burying their differences, there is greater hope of successfully architecting an anti-COVID-19 community in the BRI, so as to push the BRI cooperation to a new height.

The author is a professor at the Center for Sino-German People-to-People Exchange, Tongji University.

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