Scientists, scholars say remove politics from virus debate

Greater international cooperation on combating the COVID-19 pandemic is needed and less politicization of scientific issues, such as tracing the origin of the virus that causes the disease, according to Chinese scientists and scholars.

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said investigating the origin  of the virus is a scientific question that should be answered scientifically.

“Nobody should be blaming others. Probing the origin of the virus cannot be politicized,” he said during the 23rd Annual Meeting of the China Association for Science and Technology, which started on Tuesday and ended on Wednesday.

Gao said the pathogen may gain new properties by mutating and then breaching the body’s immune system. Therefore, it is important to enhance international scientific cooperation based on openness, trust and collaboration, he added.

Wang Hongyang, a noted oncologist and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the current public health challenges are unprecedented. “People are starting to realize that when a public health crisis hits, there is no such thing as a safe harbor,” she said at the meeting. “We are all in this together, and only through international cooperation can we ensure global public health security.”

Wang said that since the COVID-19 outbreak, China has taken the “most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures” to curb the disease, allowing the country to go from being the most vulnerable to the virus to one of the safest nations in the world.

China has also taken concrete actions to improve global public health in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, including monetary donations to the World Health Organization and providing vaccines and aid to other countries.

“Only by respecting human lives as the upmost priority, along with enhancing cooperation and mutual assistance, can the international community form a collective force to tackle emerging public health crises and embrace a … healthy future,” she said.

Xue Lan, dean of Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University, said that after the end of the Cold War, international cooperation on science and technology rapidly expanded, but in recent years, political issues between major countries have undermined this momentum.

“All of humanity has benefited from global cooperation in science and technology,” Xue said.

Now, there are politicians whose agendas are interfering with the collaborative consensus among scientists, namely, that science has no borders, and science and technology should benefit all mankind, he said.

“The international scientific community must adamantly push back against these political challenges,” he said.

Kazuki Okimura, former president of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, said science exchanges and cooperation, such as those between China and Japan, are important for training talented people, building ties and promoting progress.

From 2013 until the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019, Japan invited over 10,000 Chinese students and researchers to the country for exchange programs, Okimura said. However, the pandemic has put the program on hold for over 18 months.

Although COVID-19 is largely under control in China, the rest of the world is still suffering the impact of the coronavirus and its variants. As a result, international relations will likely witness major changes in the future, he said. “This means China-Japan cooperation is growing more important than ever, and we look forward to building a relationship with China based on mutual learning and win-win collaboration.”

In an online opinion poll conducted by CGTN Think Tank, 80 percent of global respondents believe that the issue of COVID-19 origin tracing has been politicized.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that the United States was politically manipulating the origin probe, a move that has received widespread opposition in the international community.

“We solemnly inform the US-in the face of facts, science and justice-political manipulation will not win hearts and is doomed to fail,” Zhao said.

Sri Lanka China Journalists' Forum was established in May 2001 as the Sri Lanka - China Young Journalists' Forum and was in force as a main association that promotes mutual understanding between Sri Lanka and China.

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