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

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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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Xi-Biden Call Analysis: Cooperation Should be Based Upon Mutual Respect

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In the first phone conversation between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies in seven months, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning had a “candid, in-depth and extensive strategic communication and exchanges” with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“On the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and properly managing differences, the relevant departments of the two countries may continue their engagement and dialogue to advance coordination and cooperation on climate change, COVID-19 response and economic recovery as well as on major international and regional issues,” Xi told Biden. 

White House officials said Biden initiated the 90-minute phone call, which is only the second of this kind since the U.S. president took office.

There had been high expectations for Biden to improve bilateral relations ever since he replaced former President Donald Trump in January.

Biden’s China journey four decades on

Biden came to China in 1979 as a member of the first delegation the U.S. Congress sent to China. The then senator said in a speech that China’s development was good for the United States.

He visited China again in 2011, and wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “a successful China can make our country [U.S.] more prosperous, not less.” 

“On issues from global security to global economic growth, we share common challenges and responsibilities – and we have incentives to work together,” read the article titled “China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise.”

In his first phone call with Xi on the eve of the Chinese New Year in February this year, Biden sent his greetings to the Chinese people. He said he was prepared to have candid and constructive dialogue with China in the spirit of mutual respect and to improve mutual understanding and avoid miscommunication and miscalculation.

Yet such goodwill failed to match up with the actions, according to Yuyuantantian, a public WeChat account that focuses on current affairs. And hostility has been particularly evident in the U.S. Congress. 

In recent months, there have been more China-related bills in the U.S. Congress than ever before, with more than a dozen in July alone, most of which recommended the adoption of opposing or restrictive policies against China. 

The U.S. has made a major strategic miscalculation on China, said Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, as quoted in the Yuyuantantian article. “It mistakenly takes China as a major strategic competitor and believes whatever China does is aimed at undermining the U.S. leadership and dominating the international order.”

Xi has said China and the United States will have different views on some issues, but the key is to respect each other and treat each other as equals. But the U.S. has yet to learn to do that, according to Yuyuantantian.

‘Whether China, U.S. can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world’

China and the United States are respectively the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, whether they can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world, and it is a question of the century to which the two countries must provide a good answer, Xi said in the Friday phone conversation.

The two countries should bring relations back to the right track of stable development as soon as possible for the good of the people in both countries and around the world, he added.

How to get China-U.S. relations back on track has become a “must-solve problem,” Yuyuantantian commented, adding that the ball is now in the U.S. court. 

Washington is gradually losing its reputation all around the world, the public account said. “If it really wants cooperation, it has to ‘get off its high horse,’ face the reality and start an open dialogue with China,” it added. 

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Through the lens: How 20 Years of Conflict Since 9/11 Changed Afghanistan

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The Afghanistan war ended just as abruptly as it had begun. Two decades ago, the September 11 terrorist attacks led the U.S. to formulate its controversial counter-terrorism policy, including its longest war in history – the war in Afghanistan.

Twenty years later, the mountainous country nestled in the heartland of Asia has once again come to a crossroads as the U.S. withdrew its troops, with the Taliban reclaiming the power they lost two decades ago.

Afghanistan has long been a battlefield for global powers, but it has never been conquered, hence its moniker – the “Graveyard of Empires.”

In the series “Through the lens: Afghanistan 2001-2021,” we dive into the scars the war has left on the country, and the fear, wrath and resilience of the Afghan people, in eight episodes.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: How the ‘war on terror’ begins

The September 11 attacks claimed some 3,000 lives, making it the deadliest attack in U.S. history. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: America’s longest war

The U.S. military invaded the country, already war-plagued and impoverished, in the name of the “war on terror.” 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The poppies blossom

In decades of war and destitution, opium poppy plantation and production have become a major source of income for local farmers. “Either Afghanistan destroys opium, or opium will destroy Afghanistan,” former Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: Fears and tears

In the protracted war in Afghanistan, no one suffered more than Afghan civilians. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from homes with no shelter and rarely any food.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The Displaced

Wars after wars have made migration a norm for the Afghan people. As of 2021, Afghanistan is the third largest source of refugees in the world, with the number of Afghan refugees standing at 2.6 million. Domestically, 4 million internally displaced persons are still in temporary camps.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The skyline and the slum

In the capital, Kabul, there are only two kinds of people – the rich and the poor.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The withdrawal

On April 14, Biden announced the U.S. troop withdrawal would be completed by September 11, marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the invasion. In the months that followed, the country witnessed massive chaos. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The future is murky

How the new Afghan government deals with the wide range of social, political and economic issues will determine how an Afghanistan under the Taliban will be received by the Afghan people and the world.

Editors: Zeng Ziyi, Zhao Yue, Wang Xiaonan, Yu Jing, Zhong Xia, Du Junzhi 

Images designed by Liu Shaozhen

Graphics by Yang Yiren 

Producer: Wang Xiaonan 

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Xi Jinping Urges ‘True Multilateralism’ in World’s ‘Daunting’ Economic Recovery from COVID-19

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said the world economy is undergoing a “daunting recovery” which requires “true multilateralism” in the face of fresh COVID-19 flare-ups.

“We are ready to work with all parties to uphold true multilateralism, advocate trust and harmony, promote win-win cooperation, and march with firm steps toward the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind,” Xi said at the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link from Beijing.

The forum – held in Russia every year since 2015 – has the goal of promoting multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year’s session was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the speech, Xi called for the international community to unite. “We need to intensify cooperation in vaccine research, development and production, provide more public goods to the international community,” he said.

The Chinese president also voiced opposition to any sort of politicization of COVID-19 vaccines and origins-tracing.

Extra efforts for mutually-beneficial cooperation

“We need to redouble our efforts to advance mutually-beneficial cooperation,” Xi said at the opening ceremony.

He called for the deepening of collaboration between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union in areas including digital economy and climate change.

The Chinese president also urged the group to embrace a “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” by “narrowing differences” and “building consensus through dialogue and exchanges.”

As Friday marks the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, Xi also called for the defense of the victory’s outcomes.

“The international community must defend firmly the victorious outcomes of World War II, safeguard the truth of history, and stay committed to taking history as a mirror to open up a brighter future,” Xi said.

(Cover: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link, September 3, 2021. /Xinhua)

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