Coronavirus pandemic

China, US vow to join hands to fight virus

Conciliatory phone call between Xi and Trump follows the two sides' war of words

A big screen in Shanghai displaying an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, after the Chinese city's emergency alert level was downgraded as the coronavirus situation improved. The number of infections in the United States has surged past
A big screen in Shanghai displaying an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, after the Chinese city's emergency alert level was downgraded as the coronavirus situation improved. The number of infections in the United States has surged past 82,000, overtaking that in China.PHOTO: REUTERS

After two months of tit-for-tat exchanges and finger-pointing that have seen bilateral relations deteriorate, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump have pledged to work together to combat the coronavirus.

The two heads of state spoke on the phone yesterday, during which Mr Xi urged Mr Trump to "unite to fight the epidemic" and promised that China will share information and expertise "without reservation".

The two countries have recently been engaged in a war of words over a number of issues, including Mr Trump's insistence on calling the coronavirus the "Chinese virus", and the expulsion of journalists from both sides.

The United States was also upset after a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman suggested that the virus originated in the US.

Sino-US relations are at an important juncture, official news agency Xinhua quoted Mr Xi as saying during the phone call.

"It is hoped that the United States will take substantive actions to improve Sino-US relations, and the two sides will work together to strengthen cooperation in areas such as epidemic resistance and develop a relationship of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation," said the Chinese leader.

In a tweet following the conversation, Mr Trump said he had discussed the pandemic with Mr Xi "in great detail".

"China has been through much and has developed a strong understanding of the virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!" tweeted the US President.

The conciliatory exchange came as the number of infections in the United States surged past 82,000, overtaking China.

 
 
 
 

Yesterday, China's National Health Commission reported no new cases in Hubei province for the third day in a row, with all but one of the 55 new cases recorded on Thursday coming from overseas. Hubei's capital city Wuhan, where the outbreak started, was the worst hit in China.

The nationwide tally for the number of infections since the outbreak stood at 81,340 on Thursday.

At an emergency Group of 20 (G-20) video conference chaired by Saudi Arabia on Thursday, Mr Xi urged the grouping to develop a collective response to curb the pandemic, and to prevent the world from falling into a recession.

"I want to call on all G-20 members to take collective actions - cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade.

"Together, we can send a strong signal and restore confidence for global economic recovery," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

CALL TO BOOST BILATERAL TIES

It is hoped that the United States will take substantive actions to improve Sino-US relations, and the two sides will work together to strengthen cooperation in areas such as epidemic resistance and develop a relationship of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING, in a phone call with US President Donald Trump. 

BOTH SIDES WORKING CLOSELY

China has been through much and has developed a strong understanding of the virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!

U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, in a tweet following a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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On its part, China will boost its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and medical supplies to the international market, and continue to pursue a proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy, said Mr Xi.

The G-20 nations vowed to pump US$5 trillion (S$7.2 trillion) into the global economy.

But China's decision on Thursday to drastically cut international flights and bar foreigners with visas and residence permits from entering the country may yet upset other countries.

Beijing had previously protested over similar action by various governments.

Yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang defended the move as temporary and taken "as a last resort".

"They are also a reference to the practices of many countries."

China will not be letting foreigners who have visas or are residents into the country from today, and will restrict all foreign airlines to operating just one route once a week from tomorrow.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2020, with the headline 'China, US vow to join hands to fight virus'. Subscribe