China’s foreign aid shouldn’t be bridled by controversy

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By Yu Ning Source:Global Times

An Ethiopian Airlines cargo flight filled with medical supplies donated to Africa from the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation arrives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 22, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

As China is aiding countries ravaged by the novel coronavirus pandemic with testing kits, protective outfits and other medical help critical for fighting the disease, some Western media outlets and observers have accused Beijing of exercising “coronavirus diplomacy” to expand influence and fill the leadership void left by the US.

In China, voices are also calling on the country to scale down its coronavirus-related foreign assistance. Some Chinese people are questioning why China continues to do a thankless job facing groundless accusations and distorted interpretations of China’s motives. However, if China really steps back, that would run counter to the spirit of humanitarianism, which is in no way what a responsible global power should do.

China cannot sit by idly and show no sympathy to countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. When the epidemic was raging in China, many countries and regions offered timely and much-needed help to China, and the Chinese people took it as pure goodwill gestures.

As of Sunday, the deadly coronavirus has infected over 2.3 million people worldwide, killing more than 160,000. As many epidemic-ravaged countries have been caught up in a dilemma of growing risks but inadequate medical supplies, China should expand its aid as much as possible. Any country having the ability to help at this critical juncture should act as China is acting. The coronavirus is a common enemy of all the people and no country can deal with it alone.

Admittedly, offering humanitarian assistance will inevitably bring influence to the providers. It’s normal that people will praise and remember those who help them in need. Through providing timely help to countries in difficulty, China’s international influence could be enhanced. This is a spontaneous result. But this has touched a raw nerve of those who are stuck in a geopolitical mind-set. They worry that China is deliberately cozying up to recipients, drawing them over to China’s camp. Viewing China as an ideological rival, they interpret whatever China does from the geopolitical perspective and deem it a threat to the Western camp.

Humanitarianism must transcend geopolitics and politics. No matter how those Western politicians and observers throw mud at China’s generous efforts, patients are innocent. The coronavirus pandemic is a serious humanitarian disaster. China was one of the first countries that have brought the epidemic under control and to save lives, Beijing has the responsibility to offer medical support to those countries ravaged by the coronavirus. Any responsible global power prioritizing people’s lives would make the same choice as China.

In the future, China should enhance its efforts to provide foreign aid. It should help developing countries with relatively weak healthcare systems, ensure that medical supplies are sent to those who need them most. Beijing should also give full play to non-governmental organizations and enterprises such as the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation. The two foundations have donated a considerable number of essential medical supplies to 150 countries, regions and international organizations so far.

Not only the Chinese government but also Chinese NGOs and companies have offered help to virus-hit countries. China wins more understanding and support as long as it continues its efforts to help others.

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