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"It's a right decision to stay in Wuhan" - foreign students in China talk about their experience during COVID-19

By Wu Qimin (People's Daily)    13:26, May 14, 2020

"It's a right decision to stay in Wuhan."

Indian post-doctoral student Anila Poovanmalapandinjattethil Ajayan (R) poses a picture with a journalist from People's Daily. Photo by Xie Shouqi

That's a common answer given by many young foreigners in Wuhan, China during a recent interview with People's Daily when they recalled their life in quarantine in the city.

During the interview, they shared with People's Daily their personal experiences of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing sincere gratitude.

They chose to stay by the side of the Chinese people, instilling confidence in Wuhan, Hubei and China with concrete actions.

Aurelien Viard is a French man who went to Suizhou, Hubei with his Chinese wife to spend the Chinese New Year in mid-January, but happened to encounter the COVID-19 epidemic. He declined the offer from his country to evacuate French nationals and decided to take his responsibility together with his Chinese family to get through the difficulty.

"I felt I was also in the all-out efforts of China to combat the novel coronavirus." What Viard said echoes many foreigners who stayed in Hubei during the pandemic.

Pakistani student Sunjeet Kumar who's currently enrolled in a doctoral program at the Institute of Hydrobiology under Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, said he was taken good care of by the city's community workers when he had an ear inflammation in February this year. He described his experience as homey.

Raphael Mwatela, a PhD candidate in international relations at Central China Normal University, said that the Chinese volunteers and school staffs who were there throughout are the "unsung heroes."

The foreigners witnessed "unexpected" orderliness when China adopted the most comprehensive, strict and thorough prevention measures. They saw the well-organized medical teams arriving in Wuhan from across the country, as well as the people's active response to the unprecedented quarantine measures.

Pakistani doctoral student Sunjeet Kumar at the Institute of Hydrobiology under Chinese Academy of Sciences

They lauded the "China speed" in the construction of makeshift hospitals Huoshenshan and Leishenshan. The Chinese government was doing its best to save lives, and it was amazing that makeshift hospitals were established and facilitated in such a short period of time, they said.

"It's impossible for any other country in the world to mobilize over 42,000 medical workers to assist a province," said a foreigner in the interview, hailing the strong power formed in China that enabled countrywide efforts to assist Hubei in the health crisis. "The strict lockdown measures didn't stop the government from delivering fresh vegetables and fish from other parts of the country to communities and foreign students in Wuhan," they said.

Anila Poovanmalapandinjattethil Ajayan, who's also a post-doctoral student at the Institute of Hydrobiology under Chinese Academy of Sciences, believes that unity is the most important reason for China to conquer all challenges.

"One of the biggest asset during any crisis is the level of trust that the common people have in their government," said Mwatela. He noted that the Chinese people have a lot of trust in their government, which helped him feel safe.

Viard also said he felt the value of collectivism and saw the advantages of the Chinese political system.

The spreading COVID-19 pandemic is triggering a battle between the just and the evil in international public opinion, while the young foreigners in China have seen through the plots framing up China - some Western forces are just reluctant to see more people recognizing China's progress in pandemic response.

Moroccan doctoral student Hanane Thamik at Wuhan University said those who fabricated rumors are those who "don’t want to see Chinese development," while Viard believes that the stigmatization came from the fear that they might be further surpassed by China.

Postgraduate student Soleimani Amine from Algeria studying at Central China Normal University joins voluntary service during the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo

By posting messages on social media platforms and presenting reality in videos, the young foreigners in China have been sharing Chinese stories with their relatives and friends back home. They are telling the world that China is doing all it can to protect the lives of the Chinese people and has achieved remarkable results. They also convey a message that racial discrimination doesn't exist in the country, which can be proved by all foreigners living there.

China's anti-pandemic actions shall not be denied and tolerate no misleading, said postgraduate student Soleimani Amine from Algeria at Central China Normal University. He believes it was China's anti-pandemic measures that protected him.

"Rather than wasting their time on stigmatization that is not even worth refuting, some politicians had better find ways to save people and learn from China's experiences," said Davlatov Khairiddin, a Tajik pursuing bachelor degree in China.

The unusual pandemic response further enhanced their confidence in China.

"The global economy will be affected, that is in no doubt," said Mwatela. However, he believes in the resilience of the Chinese economy, noting "it is gradually diversified, not just in manufacturing, but in information technology, finance and service industry." Besides, the huge domestic market in China helps it withstand any external shocks, he added.

Everyone of the interviewees believes in the bright future of China. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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