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Stones from Other Hills May Serve to Polish Your Jade
Article by Ambassador Huang Xingyuan

2020-03-08
Most of my articles in Cypriot media have been about China's policies, intiatives and stories. Recently, I was asked to share my view about potential human rights violations caused by China's quarantine measures and controversy of wearing a face mask. From the perspective of a foreigner who has been living in this island for years, I wish to talk about how to avoid the "cognitive deviation" and "action deviation" that can be brought about by "normalcy deviation" in coping with Covid-19.
 
I have been previously posted in island countries for nearly two decades in Japan and Trinidad and Tobago before coming to Cyprus. The natural beauty and enchanting sunshine are the common endowment of these countries, which attract a large number of foreign tourists. Islanders are accustomed to enjoying these gifts from the heaven but are reluctant to believe in or even think about the possible natural calamities and man-made misfortunes as well as ensuing potential harms and damages. This is called "normalcy deviation" in psychology.  The lucky psychology of staying safe on a geographically isolated island is more specifically called "island deviation". The SARS and African swine fever virus spread in China but not in Japan. The Caribbean hurricane bypassed Trinidad and Tobago before attacking other countries. Likewise, with Covid-19 cases increasing sharply around Cyprus, there has not been a single confirmed case in the island so far. All these seem to prove that the "island deviation" is not "cognitive deviation".

However, such unwillingness to believe or think may lead to selective amnesia of certain facts: Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by tsunami in 2011 still leave the Japanese in lingering fear. Migration flows from neighboring countries directly caused a crime surge in Trinidad and Tobago. Such lessons shall keep Cyprus alert that the "wolf" may eventually come.

I love Cyprus with all my heart, and I pray for this beautiful "Island of Aphrodite" to be free of disasters. Cyprus has indeed escaped many disasters in history. However, as Will Durant, the renowned historian reminds us, that people can be tripped over by the same stone that stumbled others. Is Cyprus really ready? The advantages of Cyprus include government's accountability and preparedness, a comprehensive and mature medical system and highly professional medical staff. Nevertheless, there are also disadvantages such as limited medical resources, dependence on import of protective medical supplies, a highly international medical workforce may make it difficult for the timely deployment of medical staff in face of an epidemic outbreak in Europe. Moreover, social customs such as cheek kissing and fond of dinner parties may also speed up the epidemic spread.

It is also necessary to be aware of the "cognitive deviation". Quarantine and treatment measures that have been proven effective in China and promoted to the world by WHO have met with some questioning and rejection in Cyprus. People wear face masks in public to protect themselves as well as others, only to invite fuss and aversion. If "the wolf eventually comes", what does Cyprus have in its toolbox to "beat the wolf"?

As "normalcy deviation" may lead to "cognitive deviation" or even "action deviation", as Chinese Ambassador who regards Cyprus as my second home, I do think I am obliged to remind my Cypriot friends in good faith. Of course, I hope my worries will never come true. Fortunately, from my experience with the Cypriot government and professionals, it is safe to conclude that not many have the above-mentioned "deviations". With China's experiences acquired from huge sacrifices as well as the lessons of surrounding countries, I have full confidence in Cyprus' adequate response to preventing and addressing the Covid-19 epidemic.
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