By Azhar Azam – Mr. Azam works in a private organization as “Market & Business Analyst” and writes on geopolitical issues and regional conflicts.
Defending the territorial integrity from the invasion of foreign enemies, rounding up terrorists, ensuring peace and stability in the country and performing non-military activities such as humanitarian and disaster relief operations during earthquakes and floods are some of the primary duties of armed personnel the world over.
Though outside of national defense, people’s protection and other doled out functions – they are also responsible for human resource management, legal affairs, computer technology, cybersecurity, medical care and development, maintenance and upgradation of their defense equipment – their role in extending healthcare support to country’s citizens has steadily increased.
After coronavirus outbreak in China, folks around the world witnessed a committed and determined effort by Chinese military to back its government’s drive in effectively combatting and handling an entirely unknown nemesis that was more silent, stealthy and secretive than the conventional adversaries and cutting-edge military weapons.
While all the Chinese institutions prioritized the prevention and control of the Covid-19 to safeguard life and health of people – Chinese President and Chairman of Central Military Commission (CMC) Xi Jingping himself led the charge on the pneumonia and chaired numerous meetings, carried out inspection visits to the virus-hit area, deployed all resources and directed military to assist local authorities in boxing the epidemic.
CMC and People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s national army, didn’t disappoint the boss and hopes of ordinary Chinese by resolutely implementing his instructions and taking several initiatives including establishment of joint prevention and control mechanism, indulging in dedicated research, formation of joint logistics support units and deployments to pneumonia-struck regions.
Once President Xi passed out order to deploy PLA doctors and paramedics to the affected cities – Chinese military straightaway began to airlift its military medical staff, with quite a few having applied experience of tackling SARS and Ebola, to the epicenter of Covid-19, Wuhan, as the spiraling viral outbreak threatened to spread across China.
Since January 24, the eve of Chinese Lunar New Year, armed forces sent more than 4,000 medical professionals to assist the fight against Covid-19 in Wuhan in addition to 63 designated military hospitals that provided about 3,000 beds and over 10,000 medical professionals to treat thousands of coronavirus-infected patients.
The affirmative response from Chinese armed forces through deployment of its proactive medical team combined with government’s omnipresent measures including construction of a makeshift Huoshenshan Hospital in just 10 days – was an estimable and inspirational paragon of a groovy and idyllic civilian-military cooperation.
By quickly assuming control of the medical facility immediately, PLA further demonstrated that it was as alarmed and steadfast with the life and health of the Chinese people as it is for the protection of China’s sovereignty. It was an unrecorded declaration that will surely boost people’s confidence in people’s military and their loyalist sentiments toward the country.
Various online comments by Chinese – Cheer up, China! I believe we can curb the epidemic”, “Salute to workers working around the clock” and “It feels like seeing the sunshine through the dark clouds” – expressed that the Covid-19 had failed dreadfully in shaking the trust of Chinese people on their benevolent government and caring army.
PLA role in battling out the infectious diseases isn’t confined to Covid-19 alone. In the midst of rising prevalence and growing cases of such severe illnesses, Chinese military has historically backed its incumbent government to repel the deadly viruses such as SARS, influenza A (H1N1), avian influenza H5N1 and H7N9 and Ebola hemorrhagic fever.
After SARS epidemic, which infected over 8,000 people and killed 774 in 28 countries, was over in 2004 – Chinese government and military attached great importance on the prevention and control of infectious disease and formulated a series of legal mechanisms through 2009 to intensify efforts in building a robust public health system and restrict the spread of epidemic situations.
It was owing to the one-off civilian-military collaborative emergency response that following Ebola epidemic outbreaks in West Africa – China, in 2014, was able to become the first to lend the assistance to the region by sending about 1,200 military-civilian medical and health experts to carry out laboratory tests, make diagnosis, provide treatment and health training and build a biological safety laboratory for the affected countries.
The distinctive fusion worked again in February 2016 when five cases of Zika virus infection, which were imported from Venezuela, emerged in Guangdong and PLA Academy of Military Medical Sciences was successful in determining the gene sequel of the first Zika virus through civilian-military partnership.
Chinese military, therefore, has not only buoyed a strong support for its government to prevent and control the expansion of infectious diseases in the past underlying the principles of unified command, resource sharing and close cooperation – it is again aiding its national administration to push back the latest phenomenon of Covid-19.
As Xi repeatedly called on the military research institutions to step up multidisciplinary scientific research on source of infection, transmission and pathogenesis to help produce more targeted and practical guidelines for Covid-19 prevention and control – the reports that PLA top epidemiologist-led team’s breakthrough achievement in developing Covid-19 vaccine are encouraging.
Hoping these sweats to stroke a jubilation triumph for the mankind – by any means, China’s unprecedented specimen of forging irreplaceable civilian-military teamwork sets the tone for the global world as how diverse domestic institutions can mold themselves into an integrated organizational structure to minimize the risks to human health, upheld social stability and subscribe to the economic development and national reconstruction.