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Coronavirus Pandemic: A Glimpse of Top Bio-Safety Level Lab in Wuhan




The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been at the center of COVID-19 speculations across the world. Some of the theories say that the coronavirus originated from its lab and that its researchers secretly sold experimental animals in the wet market. CGTN reporter Hu Chao visited the Institute’s top bio-safety level lab and talked to a senior lab official there who dismissed the accusations.

In the outskirts of the city, one can find the Wuhan National Biosafety Lab housed within the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

HU CHAO CGTN “This national biosafety laboratory runs two levels of labs, P3 and P4. The P4 lab, the biosafety level 4 lab, is the top level. And for many, it may seem a bit mysterious. What does it look like and what happens inside? Now let’s find out.”

The letter “P” stands for pathogen, the higher the number after it, the more dangerous the pathogen.

A rating of P4 designates a lab as a maximum-security area. And the Wuhan bio-lab is one of few in the world with such a rating. Its director recalls how it was established.

YUAN ZHIMING Director, Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory “The SARS outbreak in 2003 exposed weaknesses in China’s public health system. That was when we decided to start building a high-level biosafety lab.”

It was a project between China and France, one that took 15 years to complete. The lab became fully operational by 2018. So why did it take such a long time?

YUAN ZHIMING Director, Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory “Aside from the technical complexities, we also had to set up relevant management systems and train relevant personnel to ensure safe operations. In 2018, we finally got national accreditation for experimental activities in the lab. This meant that China would have its own lab for research on deadly viruses. And China’s biosafety lab system began to take shape.”

Only qualified personnel are allowed inside the P4 lab, all of whom must have extensive biosafety training and experience.

As visitors, we were granted special access after identity and security checks. With the help of a staff member at the lab, we entered the P4 lab, but found ourselves confined to the hallways due to security requirements.

YUAN ZHIMING Director, Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory “A P4 lab comes with a biosafety platform to ensure researchers are safe from the pathogens they work on and that the pathogens stay within the lab. We have a complex system for electricity, air filtration, emergency shower, automations, fire safety and life support. All these facilities work to ensure a negative-pressure confined space.”

The P4 lab is mainly used for research on deadly viruses, especially those without a known cure or a vaccine. It can take nearly half an hour for each person to enter or exit the lab.

Personnel must wear positive-pressure suits, which feature hoses for breathable air. All waste items will undergo biosafety disposal and sterilization via high temperature and pressure facilities.

YUAN ZHIMING Director, Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory “Without authorization, not even a mosquito can sneak into the lab and none of our researchers can take even a drop of water or a piece of paper out of the lab. So, when some people speculated that we might take the experimental animals out to sell or that these animals might escape from our lab, they actually had no idea about the management and operations of our lab.”

A comprehensive safety check is conducted every year. The lab’s compound covers an area of more than 3,000 square meters. Its core area is over 1,000 square meters.

YUAN ZHIMING Director, Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory “In fact, the lab is like a box within a box. People might envision it as a secretive black box. But as you can see, it’s a very open and transparent lab. People from the outside can see what goes on inside and vice versa. We hope to make it a platform for international exchanges and to see more foreign scientists come to work in our lab.”

Expectedly, Yuan gave his two cents on the theory that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan lab.

YUAN ZHIMING Director, Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory “Our lab has been operating safely and in compliance with regulations and laws. There have been no accidents of pathogen leaks or human infections. An outbreak and pandemic caused by any infectious disease is bound to be the focus of public attention. Because of the fear and feeling of helplessness and also the lack of information, many people would naturally link an area’s outbreak to its nearest lab. As they learn more about the situation and the lab, rumors will gradually dissipate.”

Yuan says the conspiracy theories have put many of the lab’s researchers under stress, even amid increased efforts to fight against it.

YUAN ZHIMING Director, Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory “All the scientific personnel, though being wronged and stressed, have been fully devoted themselves to the race against the virus. We’ve achieved good results in animal model establishment, vaccine development and antiserum production. Our test kits have been approved for production and application. Our results on antiviral drug screenings have also been included in the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment protocols.”

Yuan also says an inactivated vaccine against COVID-19 developed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology has now entered the third phase of clinical trials. Hu Chao, CGTN, Wuhan.

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A Community With a Shared Future for Humankind in Light of U.S.-China Tensions




I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here’s what I’m watching: China’s vision of a Community of a Shared Future for Humankind in light of U.S.- China tensions. China’s vision is unambiguously good. Who could deny the benefits, to all human beings, of seeing all human beings as a community, and envisioning a shared future together? But rationality is not the problem here. The problem, in certain quarters, is that the phrase has come to represent China — and interpreted, by some, as symbolizing China seeking to become a dominant power, perhaps the dominant power in the world, and to impose its ways of governance and control on others. Is the problem irresolvable?

Consider the recent 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the “Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.” Such reflection is especially relevant today because, sadly, the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, have moved from collaborators to competitors, with some on each side now calling the U.S. and China adversaries, a descent into a hostile, perilous, zero-sum game.

What is worth remembering about U.S.- China cooperation in fighting Japanese aggression in World War II is that, at the time, the interests of the U.S. and China differed, yet they still cooperated, united by a common foe. To China, the battle on Chinese soil was existential: their country invaded, partially occupied, and suffering unspeakable horrors. To the U.S., the battle on Chinese soil was diverting Japanese forces and resources, reducing Japan’s capacity to wage war against America and American interests throughout the Pacific theater.

What’s the solution to U.S.- China conflict today? If common foes are what we need, the U.S. and China have common foes in abundance: they are not marching soldiers, but they are every bit as dangerous and deadly: pandemics, climate change, world poverty, world inequalities, terrorism, organized crime, wars and threats of war in numerous locations. In this context, a community of a shared future for humanity can thrive.

Consider the impact of world poverty alleviation. China’s experience in bringing some 850 million people out of extreme poverty is a vital resource for poorer countries. While different conditions and cultures preclude wholesale transfer, China’s targeted poverty alleviation success provides a model and a benchmark: standardized criteria, methods, measures, systems, and on-the-ground organization with five levels of local government.

While appreciating lessons to be learned from history, I also believe, to take a contrarian position, that history lessons have limited value today. Our epoch is unique. For multiple reasons, especially instant global communication, our geopolitical conditions are sui generis – unique, never before happened – which should give us pause to reflect before we react. The burden is on us, especially U.S. and Chinese leadership, to find the right road on which both great countries and peoples can walk in peace and harmony, with honesty, dignity and mutual respect. For a community of a shared future to truly work for all humanity, U.S.- China cooperation is a necessary condition.

I’m keeping watch. I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn.

Scriptwriter: Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Cameraman: Morgan Compagnon

Video editor: Liu Yuqing

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Peng Liyuan Sends Congratulatory Message to UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education




China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan, also United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) special envoy for the advancement of girls’ and women’s education, sent a congratulatory message to the award of UNESCO via a video on October 12.

In her message, Peng expressed congratulations to prize-winners from Sri Lanka and Kenya. In 2015, China established the Girls’ and Women’s Education Award with UNESCO, and Peng mentioned that there are millions of people who devote their life for the education of girls and women in China.

Zhang Guimei is one of them. She is a female teacher who has taught in the poor mountainous areas of Southwest China’s Yunnan Province for over 40 years. She established the first full-tuition-free girl high school in China, which helps many young girls from poverty-stricken families receive education.

This year, 1.5 billion students have been forced to suspend classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Peng, and this impact on girls is particularly pronounced. We need to find ways to help those girls get back to school so that they won’t be left behind due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sixty-three percent of illiterate adults around the world are women, said Peng, and the education of girls and women is of great benefit to the present and the future. China will continue to work with UNESCO to ensure the success of the Girls’ and Women’s Education Awards from 2021 to 2025, and make greater contributions to promoting girls’ and women’s education and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Peng added.

Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, thanked the Chinese government for supporting the establishment of Girls’ and Women’s Education Awards.

The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education honors outstanding and innovative contributions made by individuals, institutions and organizations to advance girls’ and women’s education.

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What is China’s ‘People-Centered Philosophy’?




I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here’s what I’m watching: What does President Xi Jinping mean when he says that the Communist Party of China has a “people-centered philosophy” for China? Many countries talk about improving the welfare and serving the interests of their citizens — what is so special about China’s “people-centered philosophy”?

To some foreigners, the phrase may sound like an empty platitude, devoid of meaning or import. But while Chinese officials hear the identical linguistic sounds in their ears, they perceive quite the opposite meaning in their minds. They take the Party’s phrases seriously. Well they should; their careers are at stake.

Here’s how President Xi defined “people-centered philosophy” in May 2020. He had four points:

First, the fundamental goal for the Party is to unite and lead the people in revolution, development and reform, and thereby ensure a better life for them.

Second, the Party must always put the people’s interests first.

Third, people’s lives and health should be protected at all costs, and since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Party has made people’s lives and health the top priority.

Fourth, people are the solid foundation for the Party’s governance.

More important than his speeches, President Xi walks the walk literally by visiting poor villages — his visits numbered well over 50 when last I counted.

In 2019, during a tour of southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, President Xi stressed the goal-directing phrase, “two no worries and three guarantees” in poverty alleviation work. The “two no worries” refer to those who have been living in poverty no longer needing to worry about food and clothing. And the “three guarantees” refer to guaranteeing compulsory education, basic medical treatment, and safe housing.

Visiting a poor mountainous village, Xi entered a primary school, walked through the cafeteria, inspected the kitchen, and inquired about the food subsidies and hygiene of the poor students. “Not a single person should be left behind in the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects,” Xi said.

But to hit a poverty alleviation target is one thing … to keep sustaining a multi-decade poverty alleviation campaign to prevent some from falling back into poverty and to continue to combat relative poverty … is quite another. For this, Xi says, what’s needed is wisdom. I’m keeping watch. I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn.

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