During his stint as US president, Donald Trump – known for employing a unilateral, instead of a multilateral approach to global challenges – sought to punish the People’s Republic of China for the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
As if that was not enough, Trump announced a halt of US funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), blaming it for having “severely mismanaged and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”.
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He described as “disastrous”, a decision by WHO to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations.
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At a time when the world grappled with how best to respond to the pandemic, Trump lashed out at WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, referring to him as “that Negro”.
Just how low, irresponsible and distasteful – especially during a global crisis?
Two years later, western countries, led by the US, have found it fit to once again punish China – introducing stringent measures against anyone from that country.
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This is against the backdrop of President Xi Jinping having taken the right decision to relax Covid restrictions in his country – allowing citizens to live a normal life and easing travel abroad.
Xi’s new year message was refreshing: “Since Covid struck, we have put the people first and put life first all along.
“Following a science-based and targeted approach, we have adapted our Covid response in light of the evolving situation, to protect the life and health of the people to the greatest extent possible.
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“Everyone is holding on with great fortitude and the light of hope is right in front of us.”
He has committed to provisional measures to fight the disease – continuing to adapt and adjust Covid response actions – better facilitating the safe and orderly cross-border travel of Chinese and foreign nationals.
In looking at the disproportionate response by western countries after the relaxation of Covid restrictions, what is clear is that they are politically driven to punish the world’s second-largest economy.
READ MORE: These countries impose new Covid rules on travellers from China
Xi has made it clear to his adversaries that today’s China is closely-linked to the world, cherishing peace and development and valuing the contribution of friends and partners.
For a country that has made extraordinary efforts to deal with the scourge of Covid – having prevailed over unprecedented socioeconomic difficulties – global support is all that it could expect.
Treating Chinese people different to other nationals upon arrival in foreign countries can only inflame an anti-China sentiment – a very dangerous development in a world that has seen the implications of xenophobia.
Solidarity and multilateral cooperation is what the interlinked world needs today in responding to the myriad challenges that we face – not rash actions that can only serve to fuel polarisation and isolationism.
No country is an island and no people should be treated differently, as if they were from another planet.
Working closely together and coming up with coordinated actions – sharing scientific information, resources and expertise – is what we expect of world leaders in dealing with such challenges as Covid.
While Covid has proven to be one of the most devastating pandemics in history, it has reminded us about why we need one another – the importance of multilateralism, world peace, security and prosperity.
Love him or hate him, President Cyril Ramaphosa should be commended for being circumspect in his approach to China and not merely going with the Western trend of banning the inflow of people travelling from that country.
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