Hope springs eternal
By XU HONG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-30 07:18
Friendly relations between China and the Netherlands are blooming as they fight hand in hand against the pandemic
It is said that the Netherlands has the most beautiful spring in the world. Indeed, when spring comes, the whole land is transformed into a sea of tulips. This spring, however, was different. Most public places in the Netherlands have been temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s most famous tulip garden, Keukenhof, is closed to the public for the first time in 71 years.
The novel coronavirus is still spreading in Europe. Since the first case was confirmed in the Netherlands at the end of February, nearly 40,000 cases have been confirmed, with more than 4,000 deaths. In a nationally televised address on March 16, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the current outbreak was unprecedented in peacetime. In the face of the pandemic, China and the Netherlands have worked hand in hand.
The cooperation between China and the Netherlands in combating the pandemic has been highly valued by the leaders of the two countries. At the height of the outbreak in China, the Dutch king and queen, and the prime minister, sent message to Chinese President Xi Jinping to support China’s fight against the pandemic. After the outbreak spread to the Netherlands, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi had telephone conversations with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and Foreign Minister Stef Blok respectively, expressing China’s readiness to deepen international cooperation with the Netherlands for prevention and control of the pandemic and to jointly tackle global public health challenges. In order to implement the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, China has been closely following the development of the pandemic in the Netherlands and has conducted sound cooperation with the Netherlands in the areas of anti-pandemic information sharing, medical supplies support and protection of overseas citizens.
China has taken the initiative to share its experience in fighting against the pandemic with the Netherlands. Before the outbreak reached the Netherlands, the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands maintained close communication with the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and other relevant departments, sharing the treatment guidelines issued by China’s National Health Commission as soon as possible to buy more time for it and provide reference for the pandemic prevention in the Netherlands. In March, China held a China-EU videoconference on pandemic prevention and control to introduce COVID-19 treatment and prevention experience to representatives of 18 European countries, including the Netherlands. Experts from Wuhan Union Hospital also discussed the outbreak via video link with the heads of 14 medical institutions in the Netherlands.
China has actively facilitated the Dutch government’s procurement and transportation of urgently needed medical supplies from China. Companies such as KLM have teamed up with the government to set up cargo air bridge to China. The first shipment of supplies that arrived in the Netherlands through the air bridge included 800,000 masks, 30,000 pieces of protective suits and 30,000 pairs of goggles. Chinese enterprises in the Netherlands and Chinese sister cities of towns in the Netherlands have also donated masks and other urgently needed supplies for the Dutch side to fight against the pandemic.
China and the Netherlands have also maintained close communication on protecting the health and safety of their nationals overseas. China has provided convenience and assistance for Dutch citizens in China to return to the Netherlands. The Chinese embassy in the Netherlands sees the safety and health of Chinese nationals in the Netherlands as a top priority of its work, maintaining close contact with the Dutch government to properly handle visa extensions and the unexpected stays of the Chinese citizens. Also, pandemic updates and travel alarms have been announced promptly through the embassy’s official website and social media accounts. We have strengthened consular services to ensure overseas Chinese citizens have unblocked channels for help. In setting up the WeChat group, named “Anti COVID-19 mutual assistance community in the Netherlands”, we have included representatives of overseas Chinese, Chinese enterprises and Chinese students to integrate and allocate resources effectively.
The cooperation between China and the Netherlands in fighting against the pandemic is motivated by the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and the international humanitarian spirit. China’s goodwill gesture was supported by the Dutch government and the vast majority of the Dutch people. The Dutch prime minister and minister for health have thanked China on different occasions for its support in fighting against the pandemic and stressed the importance of cooperation in the fight against the virus.
On the day when the masks donated by Xiamen Airlines to KLM arrived in the Netherlands, we received many letters from the Dutch people expressing their thanks to China. A 73-year-old Dutch citizen wrote: “I am just an ordinary Dutch citizen. This is the first time I have written to an embassy of another country, because I saw on the news today that China sent us valuable masks. We are deeply moved that China is willing to help others while still struggling with its own fight. Thank you!”
Spring has come and the pandemic will pass. The Netherlands has a sophisticated medical system and a high level of expertise. The scientific and rational anti-pandemic measures taken by the Dutch government, based on its national conditions, have gradually achieved positive results. We are full of confidence that the Netherlands will overcome the pandemic at an early date. Only with all mankind united can the virus be defeated. China will continue to work hand in hand with the Netherlands to welcome a real spring.
The author is the Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.