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Our two countries must overlook differences to defeat coronavirus, say American business leaders in China

Our two countries must overlook differences to defeat coronavirus, say American business leaders in China

American Chamber of Commerce in China says two superpowers should give up ‘unbridled competition’ and be better world leaders on pandemic.

The United States and China should overcome their political differences to form a “peaceful and harmonious bilateral relationship” to address the global pandemic and support economic recovery, US business leaders in China said on Monday.

Alan Beebe, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said that unfortunately, national interests and politics continued to intervene in the public health crisis.
“Covid-19 does not recognise politics or borders. This is a matter of science,” Beebe said.

Ker Gibbs, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said the chamber’s coordination with subnational level governments both in China and the US had been “excellent”, but “we’re disappointed at the national level. Both governments don’t seem to appreciate the global nature of the threat” and instead were assigning blame.

Beebe and Gibbs made the comments on Monday at a webinar organised by the Centre for China and Globalisation (CCG). During the online forum the Beijing-based think tank released a report on China-US non-government cooperation to combat the Covid-19. The report said strained relations between China and the United States had impaired non-governmental efforts to jointly combat the virus.

Liu Yuanli, professor at the Peking Union Medical College school of public health, told the webinar that collaboration and dialogue among scientists were important to fight the virus but there had not been enough information sharing between the two countries.

He cited an example of a US medical expert who had been forced to decline a webinar invitation because of “political pressure in the US”.

“The consequences of ignoring reasonable dialogue and open dialogue among scientists [are] obvious, and very concerning,” Liu said.

Beebe said one big challenge for the US business community in China was that a number of Americans who worked in China – estimated to be at least 10,000 – had been unable to return to China because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Beebe said US companies struggled to find high-quality equipment, such as masks, protective gowns and gloves to ship back to the US, because there was a lot of equipment that was fake or without standard certificates. A lack of unified standards and certification was part of the problem.

“We should continue to work, especially on non-government cooperation, to really focus on human lives and human health and economy to minimise the impact of those factors,” Beebe said.

Looking back on the first six months of the year, “half of our job was just providing information, sourcing it, verifying it and communicating it. The availability of information, the transparency of information, that’s a big challenge … both in China and the US,” Beebe said.

He said the chamber members had contributed about 600 million yuan (US$85 million) in personal protection equipment and financial donations to help China fight Covid-19. The chamber was working closely with local governments to resume production, he said. Beebe also warned that the negative impact of the coronavirus on US companies’ financial performance was expected to continue until 2021.

The CCG report called for renewed focus on anti-pandemic cooperation and for strengthened collaboration to develop and produce a Covid-19 vaccine. It also urged that the China-US sister-city network be stepped up and that a joint fund be established to help developing countries fight the pandemic.

“Facing the grave threats to humanity, China and the US should form a peaceful and harmonious bilateral relationship to forge better leadership on global governance and trade and economic development that will make both winners, instead of falling into zero-sum thinking and unbridled competition,” the report said.

The new coronavirus outbreak, which was first reported in China in December and then spread worldwide, has infected more than 11.5 million people globally, with the US being hit hardest. The worst global health crisis in decades has dragged the global economy into a severe recession and is set to reshape the geopolitical landscape.

The pandemic has deepened the rift between the world’s largest two economies. Tensions have stretched to nearly all arenas, including the handling of the virus, trade, military and issues relating to Hong Kong.
US President Donald Trump continued to attack China about the new coronavirus as the caseload continued to spike.
“China’s secrecy, deceptions and cover-up allowed it to spread all over the world, 189 countries and China must be held fully accountable,” Trump said in an Independence Day national address on July 4 in Washington DC.

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