Liu Xiaoming, China’s Ambassador to the UK, has said it is not the era of “gunboat diplomacy” in which China could be bullied over the coronavirus pandemic and has called on countries to work together to put lives first.

Ambassador Liu made an impassioned request for cooperation and denied that China was an enemy of the U.S. but had in fact been quick to notify it of the COVID-19 outbreak, just days after it was first reported to local health authorities on 27 December, last year.

“This is not the era of gunboat diplomacy, this is not the era when China was still a semi-feudal society, this is the 21st century, this is the first decade of the 21st century. These people still live in the old days, they think they can bully China, they think they can bully the world,” he told the BBC.

“China is not an enemy of the United States. If they regard China as an enemy, I think they choose the wrong target. China is a friend of the United States, China is a partner of the United States in fighting against the virus.” 

Ambassador Liu added: “China has donated 1.8 billion masks to the U.S., Six for every citizen.”

Speaking at an Asia House event in London, Ambassador Liu said China notified the world about the outbreak without delay and built a “strong line of defense” for global public health.

In light of recent criticism against China, Liu said that “arrogance and insolence” will poison international cooperation and urged leaders to put lives above everything else.

He said: “The virus does not respect borders or discriminate between races. In face of the crisis, blaming and scapegoating are futile; arrogance and insolence will only poison the cooperation between countries.”

Liu said politicizing the virus and stigmatization will only undermine international cooperation and harm the interest of everyone.

“It is against human conscience to deliberately put the virus label on a specific region, politicize the public health issue and stigmatize a specific country,” he said. “Such moves will only drive a wedge between countries, undermine international cooperation and harm the interests of all mankind.

“It is important that countries of the world reject ideological bias, put lives above everything else and form maximum synergy to bring the pandemic under control.”

Liu also pointed out the efforts that China has been making internationally to help other countries deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Including sending experts and aid to regions in need.

“China has engaged actively in international cooperation in an open, transparent and responsible manner to deal with the crisis,” he stated.

“China notified the world about the outbreak without delay, and acted quickly to identify and share the genetic sequence of the virus. At the same time, China has been sharing its experience of prevention, control and treatment with other countries without reservation, and set up an online knowledge center, which is open to all countries.

“China has donated $20 million to the WHO and sent 17 teams of medical experts to 15 countries. It has provided or is in the process of providing much-needed medical supplies, including masks, protective gowns, testing kits and ventilators, to more than 150 countries and international organizations, including the UK.”

China will continue to be an economic “powerhouse” and be open for trade internationally, added Ambassador Liu.

“China has been committed to opening its market wider to the world,” he said. “Measures have been taken to increase market access, improve business environment, expand import, increase outbound investment, facilitate unimpeded flow of goods around the world, and promote high-quality cooperation on the Belt & Road Initiative.”