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“Disease Diplomacy” – Post 2019-nCoV,Call to action for Pakistan

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After decade of neglect, infectious diseases (IDs) have re-emerged as a field of inquiry in the area of international public health and international health security. Gradually, the world is realizing the threat of emerging IDs after the 2019-nCoV outbreak in China. However, human history is abundant with stories of epidemic infections. Epidemiologically, IDs tend to follow a cyclical pattern, since they often produce immunity in survivors, and microbes await a new generation of hosts to infect. On the other hand, the disease-causing viruses or microorganisms migrate to geographically distant and immunologically vulnerable inhabitants, producing a pandemic, or regional and global outbreak. The historical relationship between the humanity and IDs is fascinating and noteworthy. IDs plagued civilizations long before the development of territorial states during the European Renaissance. Subsequently, epidemic diseases shaped human history, generally, and military conflict, in particular. During the Peloponnesian Wars, disease demoralized the Athenian people, weakened the army, and undermined the political leadership. Subsequently, more than 2,500 years later, the 1918 influenza epidemic killed 25 million people, including 500,000 Americans. The Spanish flu struck 294,000 allied troops in the fall of 1918.By the time Spanish flu, the pandemic had infected more than a quarter of the world’s population. Moreover, the 1918 flu pandemic killed 50-100 million, which is more than the combined total casualties of World War I and II.

Until the early twentieth century, plague, smallpox, influenza, and other scourges decimated human populations around the world. Despite exceptional improvement in pandemic control, IDs remain a major threat to global public health. In 1998, 13.3 of the 53.9 million deaths worldwide, or 25 percent of all death, resulted from IDs. Historically, some major disease outbreaks in China, including the 1957 Asian flu, the 1968 Hong Kong flu, and the 2002/03 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic, have triggered epidemics elsewhere in the world, killed approximately800 people around the world. In total, SARS infected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries. As demonstrated in the SARS epidemic, the new strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which causes a type of pneumonia that has not previously been identified in humans, resulting spillover of disease outbreaks in China and around the world.

The 2019/20 novel coronavirus outbreak, also known as the Chinese pneumonia outbreak or the Wuhan coronavirus, is a viral outbreak that was initially identified during mid-December 2019. Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus has resulted approximately3000 confirmed cases in 17 provincial-level regions in country, and additional cases being identified in a growing number of countries internationally. On January 21, and 25, 2020, the first cases in the United States and Canada were also announced, respectively. Confirmed cases have also been reported in 11 countries, including, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore. As of January 27, 2020, around 80 deaths have occurred all in China and 92 patients were also recovered. Conversely, ID threats, and the fear and panic that may accompany them, leads to various economic and social risks. With respect to outbreaks and epidemics, there are obvious costs to the health system in terms of medical treatment and outbreak control. ID outbreaks pose additional social risks beyond economic threats. IDs outbreaks have the potential to induce geopolitical instability. Thus, 2019-nCoV may not only have serious implications on stability, prosperity, and health security at the regional, but also global level.

The fact that ID outbreaks have more reach in our increasingly globalized world. In the age of globalized trade and air travel, diseases that once took months or even years to spread beyond their regions of origin can now migrate or travel around the globe in a matter of hours. With growing concerns about such IDs, “Disease Diplomacy” has emerged as a key foreign and health security policy concern. The term relates in particular to IDs issues and determinants that cross national boundaries. As the 21st century continues to emphasize the need for synchronized health actions between nations, the significance of disease diplomacy should be an important component within the foreign policy of Pakistan. Pakistan’s location at the cusp of Central Asia and South Asia makes it ideally suited for inter-regional connections. Moreover, geostrategic location makes Pakistan a nexus for the Eurasian Silk Road Economic Belt, and Southeast Asian Maritime Road.

Apparently, relationship between Pakistan and China may further cemented into higher level of strategic partnership with a unified vision of shared future for the regional peace, progress and stability, if both countries will have bilateral health treaties and agreements. With particular emphasis on health system development, regional and international public health, infectious disease detection and control, and international health security. Similarly, after the 2019-nCoV outbreak, Pakistan is also at high risk of epidemics due to communicable diseases because of poor socioeconomic conditions, low health awareness, inadequate sanitation, unsafe drinking-water, and overcrowded cities. In Pakistan, as a matter of fact, due to socioeconomic, environmental, corruption and bad health governance, communicable diseases still remain a major public health concern and prime cause of morbidity and mortality. Pakistan also bears a significant portion of the regional burden of many communicable diseases that pose a significant threat to regional and international health security.

The recent 2019-nCoV outbreak necessitate the regional collaboration is of paramount importance. Many diseases with epidemic potential may be transmitted rapidly, within and across both countries. The effectiveness of future policies to deal with IDs in the region will only be assured if policies are based on evidence. In Pakistan, there is a great desire to know what the future of IDs will bring, and also to know how we should behave in the future. Now is the high time to realize that we are in darkness than to pretend that we can see the light. Nevertheless, the following recommendations are put forwarded for CPEC Authority, primarily, Government of Pakistan (GoP), health and foreign policy planners, principally.

Integrate a health and infectious diseases perspective into traditional foreign policy and create information platform for disease diplomacy.

Establish the coordinating office for disease diplomacy to highlight the connection between health, well-being and socioeconomic development.

Harmonize general foreign policy to highlight the health issues for diplomacy, and utilize the disease diplomacy for regional and international health security.

Utilize science and technology, and health personnel in diplomatic activities/missions and produce policy papers on subjects arising in disease diplomacy and strengthen diplomatic proficiency,

Government must get its own house in order, continue its efforts to strengthen good governance with emphasis on merit-based institutional development and rule of law.

And, exhibit good moral character; exceptionally give priority to fight against nepotism and corruption throughout not only CPEC development but also, society as-a-whole. Eventually, CPEC Authority must be chaired by an honorable civilian (maybe economist) rather than retired military general. However, a separate security domain may be constitute under CPEC Authority that may be headed by military general.

Mirza A.A. Baig is CAS-TWAS President’s Fellow at University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). Biomedical Health Informatics Professional and Freelance Science Writer.

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East Asia

The Uyghur issue in early 2020

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The Uyghur issue is now a very important asset for global anti-Chinese propaganda, both by the United States and by other European or Asian countries.

 If we do not understand the strategic importance of the Belt and Road Initiative, which inevitably passes through Xinjiang, we do not even understand the central role currently played by the Western propaganda in favour of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

 The basic criterion – certainly originally coming from the U.S. State organizations themselves – is that of comparing the Nazi concentration camps to the Uyghur re-education camps in China.

 This is a criterion of “grey propaganda” which is by now very widespread: relatively scarcely widespread news, regardless of its factual truth, is associated with tragically true news, but very widespread throughout the world.

Hence the “truth effect” passes from the “major premise”, which is certainly true, i.e. the Jewish Shoah during the Third Reich, to the minor premise, not fully verifiable, as happens in Aristotelian syllogisms – hence, in this case, the supposed truth of the “repression” (another key propaganda term) of the ethnic group of Turkish origin living in Xinjiang.

By now all open sources – whether journalistic or para-analytical ones – have revised figures significantly: until about a year ago, everywhere there was talk about three million Uyghurs detained in camps, but now all U.S. journalistic sources refer only to one million prisoners, but with the other two million ones of Turkish ethnic origin who are, in fact, “under the Chinese iron heel”- just to use  Jack London’s old metaphor.

However, the matter of the documents coming from “Chinese sources”, translated and published by the main U.S. newspapers in November 2019, makes us revise also this figure: allegedly, in fact, there were about 500,000 Uyghurs in the Xinjiang camps from 2017 until November 2019.

Nevertheless, even this figure should probably be revised, although there are certainly camps in which the unruliest Uyghurs are temporarily interned, and certainly in very different ways from the tragic ones typical of the Jewish Shoah.

 Furthermore, the Uyghur jihad- strengthened with the new displacement of Turkish jihadists, led by the Turkish MIT, towards Libya – has always been a very serious and very dangerous problem.

According to some Russian sources, in late 2016 the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), still based in Munich, directly organized para-military operations against the Chinese territory and positions.

At least since 2015 the WUC has had direct relations with the Turkish government.

Until August 2019 over 18,000 Uyghur Islamists were in fact sent for training in Syria, with the support of the Turkish intelligence Services alone.

 Now a part of these militants is being relocated to al-Sarraj’s Tripolitania, with a view to defending al-Sarraj’s pro-Western and UN-recognized government, which has always been supported by the Muslim Brotherhood.

 The partial and very weak support to al-Sarraj is a perfect fig leaf for the operations of the Muslim Brotherhood and of its reference State, which is currently Turkey.

 Qatar, another State linked to the Islamist Ikhwan, funds operations and arms purchases.

Nevertheless many of these 18,000 “Turkmen” jihadists or, however, from Xinjiang are still in Al-Zanbaki, Governorate of Idlib, supported by German and French non-governmental organizations.

 On December 7-9, 2019 a closed-door meeting was held in Brussels on Uyghur issues, while the following day, on December 10, there was a conference at the European Parliament organized  by the French MP, Raphaël Glucksmann, attended by Dolkun Isa, the current President of the World Uyghur Congress based in Munich.

As can easily be predicted, the EU as a screen for the expansion of a “good” or”moderate” Islamism – as the United States maintains – which the EU believes will serve the interests of a weak, ineffective and misinformed Europe.

 This is very unlikely to happen.

Currently the primary variable to be kept under control is Tunisia.

  On December 25, 2019, in fact, Turkish President Erdogan – who fell in love with the Uyghurs when he was mayor of Istanbul -paid a visit to the Tunisian President, Kais Saied, an “independent” jurist elected also with the votes of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunis and of its political arm, Ennahda.

Turkish President Erdogan was accompanied by the Head of Turkish intelligence Services, Hakan Fidan, and by the Foreign and Defence Ministers.

 The bone of contention was the possibility for the Turkish intelligence Services to use the airport and the port of Djerba for the mass transfer of jihadists, organized by the Turkish MIT, from Syria to Libya and, probably, also to other areas of the Maghreb region, besides Tunisia itself.

 The new phase of Uyghur jihadism will therefore affect the whole Middle East and the Maghreb region, in addition to an increasing share of jihadists of Turkish origin who will be operating in South-East Asia.

At first the Maghreb region will be affected, with a sequence of attacks by the new jihad on the economic, oil and tourist resources of the most modernized countries of the Maghreb region, irrespective of these resources belonging to the West or not. Later there will be a wave of “sword jihad” actions between the Maghreb region and sub-Saharan Africa, with direct effects on the migration routes from “black” Africa, and then sequences of attacks will reach Southern Europe.

The attacks will initially be organized by groups particularly  specialized in “hybrid” warfare and terrorist operations. Later  there will be a resurgence of massive and very low intensity actions so as to cover other types of actions.

These attacks, however, will be different from the old Qaedist logic: the jihadists will target the production, transport and logistics systems, with the least possible impact on civilians.

We cannot even rule out the possibility of an action against the local and foreign Armed Forces, i.e. French, British and U.S. Forces (which have certainly not left Africa) and other countries’ ones.

In this future scenario, there will probably be a new military role for Saudi Arabia which will possibly reactivate its “ad hoc” jihadist networks to counter the “Allah’s warriors ” supported by its strategic competitors: Iran which, however, will not play all its cards here; Egypt, which will protect its Nile Sources and the two Suez canals, the area of Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, where the local jihad will mobilize against Somalia and Eritrea.

 Moreover, as we noted above, the data on Xinjiang’s economy is not at all consistent with what has been propagandized  as “mass detention” of Uyghurs by the Chinese authorities.

 The latest reliable statistics, dating back to 2018,points to an annual GDP of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region equal to 1.22 trillion yuan, with a 0.11 trillion increase compared to  2017.

It is unlikely if we consider the data released by Western media on the Uyghurs detained in various “re-education camps”.

 Moreover, very significant investment has always been made in the Xinjiang region, in three Chinese five-year programmes: the 2006-2010 one and the 12thplan of 2011-2015, as well as the  current one.

 At the beginning of China’s planning policy, about 97% of the population lived in a territory covering only 8% of the  Autonomous Region’ surface.

 The 12thplan focused on 12 Chinese areas and regions, obviously including Xinjiang, with a view to enhancing economic growth, infrastructure and public services, as well as to implementing a  vast environmental protection of the region: since 2015 forests have been covering over 20% of the Uyghur territory.

As we saw during the last years of the Shah’s government in Iran, the fast modernization of the economy often leads to cultural and identity imbalances which may probably explain much of the ideological background of Islamism in Xinjiang.

 An Islam which is, however, a vast operation of some countries against China – obviously not only Western ones.

 Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the Turkish majority areas in the Chinese Autonomous Region are much less radicalized or even less tied to ancestral religious traditions, precisely in Xinjiang, where the oil and gas fields are located.

However, there is no close and consequential link between the  public security operations in Xinjiang and the progress in oil and gas extraction.

Hence, currently the only possibility to destabilize Xinjiang against China is to put pressure on the Uyghur minorities living in the neighbouring countries, mainly in Kazakhstan.

We also need to carefully consider the cultural, symbolic and historical problems emerging in China with regard to the Uyghur issue.

 China is a powerful culture State: you can certainly be Chinese  from an ethnic viewpoint – han or the other over fifty-five minorities accepted – but obviously what really matters is the sharing of a great cultural, identity and historical heritage.

 From Mao Zedong to date, there has been no political program, nor leaders’ speech, nor CPC messages not referring to facts and people of China’s very long history.

Twenty-two centuries cannot certainly be wiped out.

  The White Paper published in August 2019 by the State Council’s Information Office, regarding Uyghur culture and traditions, also states that, at the beginning, Islam was “imposed by force” on those populations.

 The Turkish minority in Xinjiang has been living there since well before its Islamization. It is also true that currently the customs of the non-han populations in the region are certainly linked to Islam.

 It is equally true, however – and here the White Paper realistically identifies the problem – that the symbolic radicalization of the Uyghur population has come after the often clumsy attempts of forced and violent Sinicization of this Turkish ethnic group.

All those attempts were made before the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The two Uyghur republics, the pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese factions, as well as the divisions between tribes and cities, are all traditions that the Uyghur Islam has had since before the establishment of the han-Chinese Communism.

 Islam has been living in the Uyghur population of Xinjiang for about 900 years.

In other areas, Islam is certainly much older: just think of the Maghreb region, the frontline of the “sword jihad” of the Rashidun Caliphs, the so-called “rightly-guided” ones after Prophet Muhammad.

 Furthermore – and here we find, once again, the Marxist roots of the Chinese regime – the White Paper also maintains that Islam was imposed on the Uyghurs with violence and “by their ruling classes”.

 It is partly true, but not even Muhammad did peacefully impose Islam on his first converted populations.

In the Islamic tradition there are as many as 43 murderers of Prophet’s enemies – all assassinations explicitly ordered by Muhammad himself.

We do not want to focus on the long-standing issue of the violent nature of Islam, in which we are not interested at all.

 The real problem is that the White Paper makes it clear that Communist China is liberating Uyghurs from their Islam and therefore from their old ruling classes.

 It should also be recalled that – even after its Communist revolution – China is still linked to an imperial theory of sovereignty, which emphasizes how power is a “Mandate of  Heaven”. The Emperor is the Party, the Party is the Leader and the  Leader represents – almost mystically – all the people, thus protecting them precisely with his Mandate of Heaven.

 It is evident that such a theory, although secularized by Marxism-Leninism and by Mao Zedong, cannot absorb but only contain  Xinjiang’s Islam.

In the traditional Chinese political culture, the Mandate of Heaven, also in its “materialistic” version, is what saves from civil war, from inter-State and ethnic clashes, as well as from the “period of warring kingdoms”.

 A phase that, in pre-Communist Chinese history, has occurred cyclically every 200-300 years.

Hence the concept of harmony has precise historical and anthropological foundations.

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The Novel Coronavirus and Information warfare

Asad Ullah

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Authors: Asad Ullah and Muhammad Hayat*

Very recently, China confronted a significant challenge, not because of the so-called Novel coronavirus but mostly because of Information Warfare. It’s distinct while reading some western media; they reflect that China is becoming a burial ground where people decease subsequently after every single minute, believing that thousands of people died and thousand are suffered. In the same vein, such information went viral on different social media networks – created massive fear worldwide.

People around the world looking at China with terrified eyes, some of the states suspended their flight and avoided their citizens from traveling to China. China indeed suspended some of the planes after negotiation with other countries only to prevent the spread of the virus, but it never means that all are disappearing here. Instead of spreading false information worldwide to increase information warfare, people around the world must appreciate China’s struggle in the current rampant disease.

It will be no exaggeration to say that in the current situation, people are running away from both Chinese as well as people who traveled to and from China. The question is, why western media, spreading such false information about the current virus while disregarding the noteworthy measures taken by the Chinese government. Western Media used the word “locked down” in the contemporary status quo in Wuhan,  accentuating that most of the Chinese provinces and other big cities are locked down because of the noxious virus, While the Chinese government never used the word locked down; they instead used the word quarantine; it is clear that the two terms are sharply dissimilar and diverse. Besides the next thing I want to reference here is that why most of the people firmly admit as accurate almost everything that Western Media highlight?

Because of the media almost, every person in the world knows about the novel coronavirus (nC-2019). Typically any novel outbreak gets more attention than a common disease, and indeed it is a severe threat to health authorities. However, it could be more crucial if we redirect some of our latest hyper-vigilance towards flu, which is more deadly than the scary coronavirus. But then again, how much we understand about the flue that traumatized the United States?

 In the comparative study, until now, the Wuhan coronavirus has killed 450 people and infected about 25000 people globally. The mortality of nC-2019 is (2.08%) much lower than other SARS and MERS with a mortality rate of 9.3 and 34%, respectively. By contrast, influenza that hit America alone has infected roughly 19 million people and killed more than 10000. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the 2019-20 flu season is nastiest in the last ten years, and will probably continue for several weeks.

Case in point, in 2009, when the H1N1 virus broke out in the United States,  no one called it the American virus or Western virus. Nonetheless, the current coronavirus, when broke out in China, the western media called it China Virus or Virus Red Flag. When the H1N1 spread to the whole world which diseased millions of people worldwide, no one said anything about American people; nevertheless, when the novel coronavirus infected about 300 people externally, the Western media started to censured China as well as Chinese student abroad. When H1N1 infected almost 100,000 Chinese citizens and killed thousands of Chinese, no one painted the virus to call it different names.

Information warfare or acts of revenge, instead of sharing false information to spread chaos and panic, the media must appreciate the recent struggle of China. Pandemic diseases indeed are not very easy to control or develop vaccine at midnight to treat diseases and avoid spreading. The Chinese government has taken a severe step to control the outbreak of the virus. Apart from precautions and quarantine, in the fragile situation, the Chinese government build Wuhan’s Huoshenshan Hospital, one of the two makeshift hospitals dedicated to treating the patients infected with the coronavirus. The hospital covers an area of 34,000 square meters, which provides 1,000 beds.

Another hospital, Leishenshan, which is underway with the capacity of 1,500 beds, scheduled to be put into use on February 5 and take patients on February 6, the Chinese new agency CGTN reported. In such a short time, China is the only country that builds makeshifts for infected people. Through the gigantic struggles of both the Chinese government and the doctors who devoted all their time to overcome the outbreak, this will surely be overwhelmed.

Thus, in such circumstances, the world must come together to fight such diseases not only in China but all around the world. The discovery of vaccines indeed essential for future threats and the same epidemic. Humanity has nothing to do with power politics; the Western world must relief as a substitute for making it more complicated.

Besides, it is indeed more natural to understand, despite the fact of equating the above study.

*Muhammad Hayat. Ph.D., Student at Shandong University, Majoring Microbiology. 

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East Asia

The International Epidemic: Putting perspective on the Wuhan Coronavirus

Sisir Devkota

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Passengers wear face masks while riding the subway in Shenzhen, China.UN News/Jing Zhang

Wuhan is in a lock down. More than 50 million people are masking behind their homes; rarely in recent history, has humankind faced such a viral threat that possesses demonic consequences. The unfortunate people of Hubei province probably know that science would eventually come to their rescue; but the threat of a global epidemic and the stigma that could be associated with exposed population might live on forever. More than a dozen other nations have received confirmed cases of infected human hosts; still, the epidemic has been contained, in terms of its scope. For the first time, the world is witnessing not a global problem, but a globalized mess of what lies ahead. In fact, it is rationally impossible to justify or predict the nature of corona virus that is being understood, or guarantee that infected hosts are not exposed as officials in China and the WHO claim. Such is the nature of a global epidemic; millions of people enter and exit the Chinese mainland; there needs to be a satisfactory perspective over questions that are unquestionably, disturbing.

Soon after the virus broke headlines across the world, British health officials were quick to mention about minimal knowledge sharing by the Chinese counterparts. Other events have testified that China made a good amount of effort to hide significant knowledge of the Wuhan virus. The world also witnessed a grand hospital being built under a week’s time; a medical centre that can now treat thousand patients at the same time. No questions on Chinese efficiency, but there needs to be a simplified information dissemination about the nature of virus; an uncompromising guarantee that there are no possibilities of another epidemic from the world’s most populous nation. Clearly, such interrogations could be offensive, but millions of people are on the line. What would happen if the virus seeps into Hubei’s hideouts? The world can only hope that China is restricting the knowledge to coddle its hegemonic ego.

There is another unambiguity surrounding the rate at which the disease could race towards doomsday; besides the veil of adequate knowledge, language barriers have hindered penetration of international expertise and resources. For nations that have registered cases of the virus, gap will be vital; the mix of Chinese ignorance with the speed of international hustle is also key. Scenarios spring into the picture, forbidding not, what if the virus gets out of control and manages to penetrate through millions or acclimatizes on other hosts that are currently out of consideration. Secondly, how would the world react on such a case, what if rationality came before human ethics? Apart from Hollywood, the human race has no experience of dealing with an apocalypse; however, it would be entirely underestimating to assume that inaction would defy momentary needs.

Reportedly, many countries are manufacturing the vaccines but American leadership in the process is unsurprising. Even convicted pharmaceuticals like Johnson & Johnson have found new causes to toil upon. An American vaccine for a Chinese virus is an example of globalization at extremes; political and financial interests are at stake, eventually, the theory of production will prevail and save lives. The world is anticipating all kinds of consequences based on the economics of unanticipated demand. It is vital to put the epidemic on a perspective, in order to grasp the possibilities of longitudinal consequences. All over the world, gastronomical cultures will be put into question, re-evaluation of hygiene standards will follow suit as well. The Wuhan virus will dump the Chinese economy, but most importantly, with fleeting speculations of international security. Unforgivably, this is an entirely new kind of epidemic.

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