A staff member displays a sample of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd (Sinopharm) in Beijing, April 10, 2020.[Photo/Xinhua]

Beijing and Washington should work together to improve their respective public health situations and make it easier for institutions such as the WHO to address the world’s health challenges, according to an opinion piece published by the South China Morning Post on Jan 26.

The state of US-China relations, however, may make such goals too difficult if underlying policy conditions are not addressed conscientiously, the article warned, quoting Zha Daojiong, a professor at the School of International Studies, Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development of Peking University. But COVID-19’s continuing ravages present both the US and China with a valuable opportunity.

Since the 1970s, China has been a beneficiary of global health and economic development agencies, and the governments of developed economies. This, coupled with China’s poverty elimination drive, helped quickly improve the health of the population. Chinese life expectancy at birth increased from nearly 60 in 1970 to 77 in 2018.

The article also cited other examples in modern history, including identification of the

Yersinia pestis

bacteria, to elaborate on China’s contribution to global health solutions. China’s help, especially to the Global South, should be viewed as enlarging the “pie” of health provision.

Seeing China as a burden on world health rather than a contributor of solutions or dismissing the “Health Silk Road” as a geopolitical ploy are not helpful, the article asserted.

It would be wiser, the piece added, for the US and China to view global health more as a public good and less as an extension of development aid.

The article was adapted from a speech presented by Zha Daojiong at a public forum on globalization on Jan 23. The forum was organized by the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University.