HANOI, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- China and ASEAN member states, especially Vietnam, have fostered practical cooperation on curbing the spread of COVID-19 and accelerating economic recovery amid the prolonged outbreaks and their devastating impacts on the region as well as the world.
To date, China has provided ASEAN member states, including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, with over 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as well as a great number of emergency medical supplies, and has also sent medical expert teams to help build virus-testing labs and work on vaccine trials with several ASEAN countries.
CONCRETE ACTIONS AT BOTH CENTRAL AND LOCAL LEVELS
Vietnam is among ASEAN members hard hit by COVID-19 since last year, especially since the ongoing fourth wave starting in the country on April 27, with many socioeconomic activities having come to a halt for months, or at least having been disrupted from time to time.
The Vietnamese Health Ministry on Monday reported 3,639 local COVID-19 patients, lifting the country's infection tally since the beginning of the pandemic to 892,579, including 887,797 in the current wave. The ministry also confirmed 65 COVID-19 fatalities, increasing Vietnam's death toll to 21,738.
Realizing that the Delta variant has created a major public health emergency due to its spread speed and lethality, Vietnam has recently adopted a proactive two-track policy -- acquiring sufficient vaccines to inoculate the population to be able to return to normal life and resume economic activity.
However, "one problem Vietnam has confronted throughout this period was acquiring sufficient vaccines to inoculate vulnerable members of society as well as essentials workers," Emeritus Professor Carlyle Thayer from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy told Xinhua.
That is when the provision of Chinese vaccines and medical equipment at central and local levels has proved their great support. According to the Chinese Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, China has agreed to provide Vietnam with a total of nearly 40 million doses of vaccines, including donated and sold ones this year and has so far pledged to donate 6.5 million doses of vaccines to Vietnam.
On Oct. 22, the Vietnamese side received 800,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, an ECMO machine and many medical equipment and supplies totaling 62.55 million yuan (some 9.7 million U.S. dollars) donated by south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
On Oct. 16, southwest China's Yunnan Province donated medical supplies, including 200 oxygen machines and 44 ventilators, to Vietnam's 10 cities and provinces.
On Sept. 10, in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital city, visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vietnamese Standing Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh co-chaired a meeting, touching upon important issues about trade, cooperation and COVID-19 vaccine assistance. On this occasion, Wang said China pledged to donate 3 more million doses of vaccines for Vietnam.
On Aug. 23, a transport aircraft of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) carrying a batch of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines landed at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. This is the first time the Vietnamese military received COVID-19 vaccines from foreign militaries, and was the most vivid image of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between Vietnam and China, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of National Defense Hoang Xuan Chien said at the handover event.
"Supplies of COVID-19 vaccines in the world are always thin, so it is very hard for a poor country like Vietnam to buy a large volume for its 98-million population. As our proverb says "Mot mieng khi doi bang mot goi khi no" ("A slice of bread when hungry is worth a whole loaf when full," or "A stitch in time saves nine"), China's timely assistance and donation are of great help," Do Thi Phuong, deputy head of the Tan Trieu Health Station in Tan Trieu Commune, Thanh Tri district, Hanoi, told Xinhua on Monday.
In Tan Trieu, all those who have been vaccinated using Sinopharm products have reported no side effects after receiving the first and second shots, she added.
Similarly, many doctors at Binh Thanh District Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, told Xinhua on Monday that since they have used Sinopharm products to vaccinate people aged 65 upwards and background disease sufferers on Sept. 8, no side effects have been reported.
SPRINGBOARD FOR TRADE
In addition to the provision of vaccines which lays a solid foundation for ASEAN members like Vietnam to resume economic activities amid the prolonged outbreaks, China, which became the world's only major economy that posted positive economic growth in 2020, has acted as a springboard for countries to speed up trade, investment, transport and tourism, said Vietnamese officials and economists.
Despite the global pandemic, China is actively facilitating trade in ASEAN with a giant production base and many global supply chains, prompting new launches of cross-border railway services, an official at the state-owned Vietnam Railway Corporation told Xinhua on Monday.
On Oct. 9, east China's Zhejiang Province inaugurated a rail freight service linking the city of Yiwu with Hanoi. In mid-September, the first cargo train under the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, jointly built by provincial-level regions of western China and Singapore, left Hanoi, carrying garments, machinery equipment and other products totaling over 1.6 million U.S. dollars, for China's Chongqing Municipality, said the official.
In mid-May, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region launched a new cross-border multimodal transport service connecting China with Vietnam and Laos. In March, a new freight train service linking central China's Hunan Province and ASEAN was launched.
Trade between China and ASEAN skyrocketed by 85 times to 684.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 from less than 8 billion U.S. dollars in 1991, making the two sides each other's largest trading partners, according to China's official data.
"Boosting economic and trade cooperation with China will create a strong drive for the recovery of the ASEAN in the time to come," Vo Dai Luoc, former head of the Hanoi-based Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua recently.
China was the first non-ASEAN member to complete ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) inked by 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including China and ASEAN's 10 member states in November last year, scheduled to take effect early next year.
"Vietnam is expected to ratify RCEP by November this year," Vietnam News Agency quoted Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh as saying.
"The RCEP will play an increasingly important part in boosting regional economic recovery and revival amid COVID-19 outbreaks and beyond," an official at the Ministry of Industry and Trade told Xinhua on Monday, adding that he planned to attend the China-ASEAN Expo Forest and Wood Products Exhibition slated for Nov. 5 to 8 in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Enditem