我回到美国探望90岁的岳母，但几天之后，关于新型冠状病毒疫情流行的消息就传遍了全世界。一方面我应该感到幸运, 因为暂时离开了疫区；但另一方面, 我也有点遗憾不能在中国和你们并肩战斗，因为厦门航空公司取消了我们3月1日的返程航班。也许我得“游回”厦门了!
有些媒体针对此次冠状病毒不负责任地夸大其词。2003年非典疫情期间，他们也是这样危言耸听。那时我们一直留在厦门，也并没有感到害怕，因为我们掌握了正确的安全防护常识，可以把被传染的风险降到最低。 在美国仅流感每年就导致上万人死亡! 如果媒体对一般流感也像这样大肆渲染，那我们可能就只能永远躲在家里了。
从积极的一面来看,我为全世界感到庆幸的是, 这种新病毒爆发在中国而不是其他国家，其中有两个原因:一是中国政府, 二是中国人民。我怀疑任何其他国家的政府是否有能力、 决心或勇气如此果断而迅速地采取抗击疫情的措施。尽管目前也有一些疫情初期行动迟缓的报道, 但在确认未知病毒后仅两周内, 中国科学家就分离并发表了制备疫苗所需的病毒遗传序列。
中国在2003年时对非典疫情的反应比较慢, 但显然中国政府从那时就积累了很多应对公共卫生事件的经验。我对此并不感到惊讶，自从1988年我们迁居厦门以来,中国已经发生了巨大的变化。纵观历史，从未有过一个人口如此众多的大国，人民生活水平能改善得这么快(包括偏远山区, 去年7月我在中国20000公里的旅程中见证了这一点)。史无前例可借鉴，中国必须在自身发展的过程中不断学习。当前应对疫情的挑战也正彰显了中国正在不断进步, 中国经验不但能帮助自己战胜此次疫情，也将为其他国家提供很好的借鉴。
令我特别感动的是中国人民对这次疫情的积极响应。尽管连世界其他地区的人都感到恐慌(我没有责怪这些人的意思), 但中国人民依然勇敢顽强地在和疫情作斗争。当通过媒体报道，看到处于疫情“震中”的武汉市民透过窗户向着大街上的同胞高喊“加油”时，全世界的人们都对中国人民的坚强而感到震撼。在一位中国朋友给我发来的微信中写道：“我们的政府和人民一定会打赢这场阻击疫情的战争! ” 另一位朋友则写道:“我们只是小心做好自我防护, 但我们不害怕! ”
他们让我想起了英国作家Ann MacKenzie-Grieves笔下的中国人。十九世纪20年代，她在厦门生活时，就深深感受到中国人民坚韧不拔的精神，她写道：“当我第一次踏足厦门的 那一刻, 我就感受到中国人民充满着巨大的活力，那是一种顽强的生命力，它所折射出的力量令人震撼。正因为拥有如此强大的生命力，他们才能在充满苦难的生活里生存下来。”
我的心与你们同在, 希望很快能回到厦门再见到大家-即使我必须游回去! 加油！
A Letter to Friends in Xiamen
Dear Friends in Xiamen,
We hope all is well with you there in Amoy! We just returned to the U.S. to help my 90-year-old mother-in-law only a couple of days before the world realized the coronavirus was so serious. On the one hand, I should feel lucky, as some foreigners are scrambling to leave. Yet on the other hand, I am kind of regret that I am not there in China to help. And Xiamen Airlines cancelled our March 1st return flight, which is unfortunate. Maybe I’ll have to swim home to Xiamen!
The media is really blowing this up, but the media also sensationalized SARS in 2003. We were in Xiamen during the entire time and were not fearful because we knew a little common sense attention to safety and cleanliness helped minimize the danger. After all, in the US, the flu alone kills up to thousands of people a year! If the media hyped the flu like other diseases, we’d be terrified 24/7 and never leave our homes.
On the bright side, I see two reasons that the world is lucky this new virus broke out in China and not elsewhere: 1) the Chinese government, and 2), the Chinese people. I doubt that any other government would have had the ability, resolution or courage to act so decisively or quickly. In spite of present reports about initial delays, within only two weeks of seeing the unknown virus, Chinese scientists had isolated and published the virus’ genetic sequence needed to make a vaccine.
China’s reaction to SARS in 2003 was slower, but the country has obviously learned a lot since then—which is not surprising. So much has changed since we moved to Xiamen in 1988. Never in history has there been such a large nation, and so many lives have improved so quickly (even in remote mountain regions, as I saw during my 20,000 km drive around China last July). With no historical precedent, China must of course learn as it goes. But this present challenge underscores that China is improving, and using what it learns to help not only China but the rest of the world as well.
But what really moves me is Chinese people’s response to the virus. While the rest of the world is panicking (and I don’t really blame them), Chinese are stoically dealing with the situation. People the world over are amazed at media reports of how, even in the virus’ epicenter of Wuhan, people shout from windows to people on the streets, “Jiāyóu!” “Press forward!” My WeChat messages from Chinese friends are not fearful but positive. “Our government and our people will overcome this!” one said, and another wrote, “We are careful but not afraid!”
They remind me of the Chinese that an English author, Ann MacKenzie-Grieves, encountered when she lived in Amoy (Xiamen) in the 1920s. She felt Chinese,’ “immense vitality the moment I first set foot in Amoy …It was a life, at times, frightening in its force. It needed to be strong to survive such human miseries as it daily faced.”
This frighteningly powerful Chinese spirit is why China has survived not just centuries but millennia, and today it will carry China through this present crisis.
Our hearts are with all of you, and we hope to see you all again soon—even if we have to swim to get there! 加油！
William N . Brown