February 19, 2020
Dear Foreign Languages Press Family,
Greetings from California! We hope that you are all staying safe and healthy there in Beijing.
We’ve been following the news very carefully, and have been so impressed, and deeply moved, by China’s response to this present crises—and not just the government’s response but that of the people! Many of my Chinese friends have sent me messages encouraging me, even though, not me, are facing the virus. A girl in Xiamen wrote, “I’m in 14 days quarantine but no problem! I can use my phone to order fresh food sent right to my door, and I can stay in contact with friends via social media or study online. We know the quarantine and restrictions are for our safety.”
The world should be grateful that this happened in China and not anywhere else, because no other nation’s government or people could have coped with this challenge with the decisiveness and courage that China has shown.
I find it ironic that the Western media keeps comparing this virus to SARS, but they don’t talk about the Swine Fever of 2009, and how it took many months for Western governments to take it seriously. They also don’t talk about MERS (Mid East Respiratory Syndrome), which Western governments also responded to very slowly, even though the fatality rate was over 40%. Yet China, within 2 weeks, had already isolated the genome for this new virus and shared it with the world.
As to the short delay in announcing this to the public—that was reasonable. Even as you should never shout “Fire!” in a crowded room, so we should not panic the public by announcing an epidemic until it is certain. This is just common sense. But as soon as the government was indeed certain, it reacted quickly and decisively—even sacrificially. China’s actions are costing the nation billions of dollars, but the nation and the people accept this stoically as the price to pay to protect not only China but the rest of the world as well.
But it is no surprise to me that China’s medical corp can handle this so well. Many people, including Chinese, would be surprised to learn that some Western experts said that even in the 1970s, China’s medical care for average people, both rural and urban, was better than that in the U.S.! In 1979, Dr. Viktor Sidel spoke before the U.S. government and angered quite a few leaders when he gave statistics on how “poor” China did a better job of meeting its people’s health needs than “rich” America!
Dr. Sidel had often read “China Reconstructs (which I too read in the 70s and 80s, and is now “China Today”), and visited China 3 times in the 1970s. Dr. Sidel shocked the U.S. government leaders when he showed them that infant mortality in New York city was twice as high as that in Shanghai for white babies –and 3 times as high for nonwhite babies. He also showed how Chinese did a better job at immunization than Americans. Dr. Sidel said,
“China is a poor country… Despite its low level of technology and its poverty, China has made incredible advances in the past 30 years in the health status of its people”.
Dr. Sidel also compared China to other developing Asian countries:
“Wherever one looks in China one sees a fundamentally healthy people. If you have traveled to other poor countries of Asia, you have some feeling for the different way people on the streets look and the poor health status that very different picture reflects.”
Dr. Sidel then surprised his audience by saying, “Part of this change in health in China in the course of one generation has nothing whatever to do with medicine. It has to do with what people eat, the houses which they live, the way in which they’re clothed, and the ways in which they live together.” This medical doctor then shocked his audience by saying, “Food distribution is a far more important determinant of health than is medical care. “
In speaking of China’s better food, housing, clothing and society, Dr. Sidel was speaking of the China Dream, although it was decades before anyone had actually called it a dream, or dared believe it could truly become a reality for China (and, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, to others nations as well).
Some may remember 2020 for the virus, but history will remember 2020 as the year that China achieved Xi Jinping’s goal of eradicating absolute poverty. No other nation in history has ever dared to even voice such a goal, much less to act upon it. And thanks to the pivotal work of Foreign Languages Press, which for 70 years has helped tell China’s Story to the world.
Just this morning, for example, I saw that, even in the face of the present challenges, Foreign Languages Press is editing a book Seal Off the City: Wuhan Story. Congratulations! You never cease to amaze me with your determination to tell China’s story to the world! Thank you for 70 years of helping the world to see the real China, and helping the world to see that the China Dream can also become a Global Dream. All people, after all, are dreamers, and hope for a better life of peace and prosperity for their descendants. But do other nations really have any hope?
When a U.S. government leader expressed doubt that Dr. Sidel’s dream of better medical care in the U.S. could become reality, Dr. Sidel replied, “The achievement of worthwhile goals, as you personally know, is never easy. That must not stop us from trying.”
What Foreign Languages Press is showing the world is that China has never stopped trying—and passion and perseverance do pay off! As we say in Fujian, Victory comes from struggle—爱拼才会赢！
Thank you, Foreign Languages Press. I’ve read your publications since the 1970s, but never dreamed then that one day I would have the honor of working with you, to share China’s Story with the world. This year, 2020, is giving Foreign Languages Press many more great China Stories to share with the world. We have the story of how China’s government and people struggled and defeated the virus. And we also have the story of how the most populous nation on earth eradicated absolute poverty.
Jiayou, Foreign Languages Press! Let’s continue to give the world hope by sharing China’s Story!
My respect, and love, to all of you,
潘维廉（William N. Brown），厦门大学美籍教授，福建省第一位拿到中国永久居住权（“绿卡”）的美国人。