Different people may use different words to describe the friendly China-Greece relations. But recently, the word empathy came to my mind. As the great Greek philosopher Aristotle put it, “What is a friend? A friend means a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” The empathetic thinking and friendly sentiments between our two peoples have once again been clearly manifested in our joint combat against the Covid-19 virus.
Every morning in the past few weeks, the first thing I did was to check the latest figures in China and Greece regarding the Covid-19 epidemic. Last Saturday morning, instead of this daily routine, I rushed to the airport to receive the Air China CA 863 flight. Several Greek ministers joined me on the tarmac. The morning breeze was a bit chilly, but everyone was warm with strong emotion and excitement when the cargo was offloaded from the plane. Altogether, 8 tons of Chinese government assistance of medical supplies, including 550,000 medical masks and protective gears, goggles, gloves and shoe covers, and another 10 tons of masks donated by Chinese companies.
These much-needed medical supplies were organized and transported within eight days by the Chinese government in response to the urgent request from the Greek side, at a time when China is still under immense pressure containing the epidemic, while there is still a shortage in the supply of medical materials.
This epidemic has once again brought home the imperative need to jointly build a community with a shared future. Viruses do not respect borders, and combating this global challenge requires international cooperation. Since the beginning of this year, China has been at the forefront of the world’s fight against the epidemic, taking the most comprehensive, stringent and thorough measures of prevention and control, mobilizing the entire nation, from governments at all levels to every grassroots community and every citizen. The quick response and all-around actions, taken on the bases of previous experience and with a strong commitment to people-first policies, have enabled us to contain and slow down the spread of the virus.
At the same time, my government has also been working actively with the international community, in the spirit of openness, transparency and responsibility, sharing valuable information and scientific data. China’s efforts have given all countries precious time to prepare and mobilize their resources. And the best practices and experience disseminated by China have been put to good use as other countries formulate their policies in this regard. A good example was the China-CEEC Video Conference on Covid-19 prevention and control on March 13, during which governmental officials and medical experts from China, Greece and other Central and Eastern European countries engaged in an in-depth exchange of views on how to tackle the epidemic in a scientific way.
In the fight against Covid-19, China and Greece have been working closely together. When the situation in China was at its most critical stage, the then President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent letters to Chinese President Xi Jinping, expressing their support and sympathy as well as the highest solidarity with the Chinese government and people. When certain countries out of panic abruptly shut their doors to or imposed unreasonable restrictions on Chinese citizens, the Greek government, while taking the necessary measures of prevention, never adopted any discriminatory measures against the Chinese people and imports. I was deeply touched by the piles of letters I received from Greek people and organizations expressing their support and solidarity, as well as gestures and donations of masks by Greek companies and organizations. A video clip made by teachers and students from the Business Confucius Institute in Athens cheering up the Chinese people was posted thousands of times in China.
As the Covid-19 prevention and control situation in Greece has become increasingly challenging, Chinese businesses including Cosco Shipping, State Grid, Bank of China, ICBC, Huawei and many local Chinese organizations have gone out of their way to find and ship over a substantial amount of medical supplies to Greece. Much is still on the way. I know many members of the local Chinese community who pooled their own resources together and toiled to bring packages of medical masks as carry-on luggage on flights to Greece for donation. Workers in several Chinese factories are working around the clock, right now, to have the medical supplies ordered by the Greek government produced in large quantities and in time.
China’s prevention and control measures over the past months have proved to be effective and we have seen a positive trend recently. It also fully shows that the epidemic can be controlled and conquered. To counter the epidemic, the Greek government has taken early and forceful measures. I am confident that these measures will prove to be effective. The Greek people, like us, are a great people who have weathered the storm, successfully overcoming challenges, be that devastating wars, natural disasters, deprivations and epidemics. This time, with all Greek people united as one, Greece will definitely win the battle. As a friend, we stand by you and will assist to the best of our ability. As President Xi Jinping pointed out in his letter to his Greek counterpart, “through the test of jointly combating this epidemic, our friendship characterized by mutual support and assistance will be further consolidated.”
Zhang Qiyue is ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Hellenic Republic.