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Statement by Consul-General Dong Zhihua at the Perth Rotary
2020/02/10

(7 Feburary 2020, the Westin)

Mr. Vangelis Katsaitis, President of Perth Rotary,

Members of the Perth Rotary,

Distinguished guests and friends,

I wish to thank Perth Rotary for inviting me to be the Guest Speaker for your traditional Chinese New Year lunch, and I highly appreciate your friendly gesture of hosting this event to honor the Chinese community in Western Australia and the People's Republic of China, especially at such a difficult time when the Chinese people is fighting the noval coronavirus.

It is also a good opportunity for me to reach out and get to know the Perth Rotary members from leading businesses, government, academic and non-profit organisations, who share a passion for making a positive difference for local, national and international communities.

The start of this Chinese New Year of the Rat is very dramatic, with some media labeling the outbreak of the novel coronavirus as the first or the second Black Swan Incident. My country is making all out efforts to contain the epidemic, from top leadership to the grassroots, the whole nation is mobilized.

We are confident and capable to win this battle. With the strong leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the enormous strength of socialism with Chinese characteristics as well as the strong support from the international community, the Chinese people fighting with one heart and mind, we will overcome any difficulty lying ahead and ultimately curb the spread of the virus.

I published an article in the West Australian yesterday, in which I quoted the World Health Organization WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, "This is the time for facts, not fear; This is the time for science, not rumors; This is the time for solidarity, not stigma."

Virus is horrible. What's more horrible is rumors and panic. According to statistics from American media, the seasonal influenza in the US has infected 19 million people and caused over 10,000 deaths. By contrast, the number of infected cases of the 2019-nCoV outside China accounts for less than 1% of that in China. Starting from February 1, the number of people cured has exceeded that of deaths. As of the end of February 5, altogether 1153 patients were cured and discharged, almost twice as many as those died of the virus. The number of newly suspected cases has dropped for a second day in a row.

During the past several days, media, think tanks, experts and scholars of many countries have voiced their concerns over the excessive restrictive measures taken by some countries. WHO has stressed many times that it does not recommend measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade and called on all countries to combat the spread of rumors, stick to science and take evidence-based measures. We hope that the relevant countries will respect WHO's recommendations and make rational and science-based response to the current situation instead of overreacting.

I think Perth Rotary and its members are well-informed and represent the conscience of the community. By far the WA State government has made rational assessment of the risks while taking necessary precautionary measures. Perth Airport has been highly professional and avoided incidents of chaos similar to those of the Eastern Coast. Premier McGowan has spoken publicly and called me last Sunday morning to express sympathy and support to the people of China and the broader Chinese community. We remain closely in touch with each other to clarify and solve some of the specific issues facing Chinese visitors and students, bearing in mind the potential impact on bilateral economic cooperation. He is steadfast on maintaining the strong relationship between China and WA.

A friend in need is a friend in deed. During the past several days, I received phone calls and messages from people from all walks of life, including my colleague Lisa, the Swedish Honorary Consul sitting amongst you. I highly appreciate your kindness and I thanked the WA people for standing with us at this difficult time.

I think people generally have confidence and even take for granted that China will win this battle, it is just a matter of time. And China can make it within the shortest time possible. People are also concerned about the impact on economy, not only in China, but also in the world, especially here in WA.

In fact the economic and cultural links between China and WA is so close our interests are highly intertwined. I have to admit that the coronavirus may take a heavy toll on WA tourism and international education, while impact on mining and energy sector not yet that immediate and obvious. I have been keeping closely in touch with the state government and the business community to do whatever we can to mitigate the impact.

China has been Australia' s largest trading partner, top export market and No.1 import source for the past 11 years. China contributed to Australia's 29 years of consecutive economic growth. And our economic ties grows even stronger. Last year China has become the biggest importer of Australian wine and beef. About 37% of Australian exports went to China over the past 12 months. The 33% increase in Australian sales to China is largely responsible for the federal budget restoring to surplus ahead of schedule during the latest financial year.

WA occupies a special place in our bilateral trade. In 2019, China takes 50% of the State's merchandise exports and WA accounted for 61% of Australia's merchandise export to China. Iron Ore exports to China rose 26% to 62.4 billion AUD in 2018-19. Chinese visitors rose 12% to 72400 in 2018-19 and remain largest spenders, accounting for 13% of total international visitor spend in WA.

The epidemic is influencing China's economy, especially consumption. But it is temporary and will not change the fundamentals of China's economy which will remain sound for a long term. The People's Bank of China, China's central bank, has launched measures to stabilize the economy, including credit easing and liquidity injection, especially for private, small and micro enterprises as well as manufacturing companies.

China is the only country in the world to host all industrial categories of the United Nations industry classification system, with a notable edge in productivity and infrastructure. In addition the epidemic does not curtail all economic activities but only changes pattern. The restrained consumption demand, such as travel and shopping, will see an obvious rebound once the epidemic is over. The resilience of China's economy cannot be underestimated. In the long run, the epidemic cannot undermine the nation's huge potential in consumption, urbanization, and emerging industries such as 5G and artificial intelligence.

We therefore remain fully confident in the prospect of China's economy.

Before I conclude, I would like to highlight that in a world facing so many challenges and uncertainties, China has made an unwavering choice: we are working to build a community with a shared future for mankind. This is at the core of China's foreign policy and has been incorporated in the Constitutions of the Communist Party of China and of the People's Republic of China.

Domestically, China always takes the people's aspiration for a better life as its goal and has worked diligently to modernize its governance system and capacity. This is to make itself a better country.

On the international front, China has been pursuing win-win cooperation and common development with other countries and stayed committed to improving international governance. This is to make our world a better planet.

Again our commitment to a community with a shared future for mankind is fully demonstrated by China in its response to the ongoing epidemic. In the face of a public health crisis, all countries should bond together. China is ready to work closely with the international community, including Australia, and tide over difficulties with solidarity for the sake of regional and global public health security, and to safeguard the common interests of us all.

I sincerely hope that Perth Rotary and its members could be strong advocates for stronger bilateral ties between China and Australia and be opinion leaders in your community in forging an objective view on China.

I spite of a turbulent beginning of 2020, we should remain upbeat and optimistic. I wish each and everyone of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year of the Rat.

I thank you.

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