Bill Gates has praised China’s efforts in the fight against the coronavirus, and now he continues to talk about China’s role in global health. In an email interview with Caixin Global, he talked about how his foundation has been battling COVID-19 and about China’s response to the pandemic.
Bill Gates on China
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation in the world with $46.8 billion in assets. The foundation gave $531 million to the World Health Organization in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which made it the coalition's second-biggest supporter behind the U.S.
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The foundation backs the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, among other groups. It has committed over $350 million to aid countries as they battle the coronavirus and work on treatments and vaccines. The foundation gave $5 million in emergency funds to China in January and then another $100 million in February to support research on vaccines in China.
Gates told Caixin that he believes "everyone deserves an equal chance to live a healthy and productive life" and that innovation is the key to making that happen. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been working in China since 2007. It has been focused on preventing HIV and AIDS, treating tuberculosis and controlling tobacco.
Gates said China's work on global development and engagement has benefitted people in other countries. The Gates Foundation is looking to cooperate even more with China to bring its agricultural technology, solutions for controlling malaria, and medicine and medical equipment developed in China to the rest of the world. The foundation also wants to help the country close the gap between international standards and its own medical system.
Gates told Caixin that one thing that has impressed him in the global response to COVID-19 is how businesses, governments and organizations are collaborating to solve issues quickly. He said CEPI and Gavi are key parts of this collaboration.
He believes CEPI has played an important role in the search for a coronavirus vaccine. He added that having an organization that was ready to step in immediately to work on a vaccine for an epidemic is "new in the history of global health." He finds it encouraging that governments are donating to CEPI and expects a COVID-19 vaccine in the first half of 2021.
Caixin asked Gates about projects that didn't achieve the expected results. He said the foundation has had several projects that didn't go as planned, but they still delivered important results. For example, they found that what worked to eradicate 99.9% of polio doesn't work to get rid of the last 1%.
However, they have learned important things not just in the fight against polio but also for other diseases, including COVID-19. He said they learned how to identify and monitor a virus' spread "with phenomenal precision" and how to organize public health campaigns that can reach almost every child in both large and remote areas.
They also learned how to build trust with areas that are undergoing violent conflicts.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in China
Caixin asked about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's work in China and how its knowledge about China and what it can achieve with China has changed over the years. Bill Gates said when they moved into China, it was to focus on preventing HIV and controlling tobacco and tuberculosis.
He added that China has since become an important partner in "helping the world achieve global health and development goals." He added that the country has moved from being a recipient of health and development support to donating it. He said China has provided antimalarial products for people in Africa and helped with the newest vaccine for Japanese encephalitis.
The news outlet also asked Bill Gates about his observation of philanthropy development in China. He noted that in China, philanthropy is still small at less than 0.2% of GDP. However, he also said the nation's strong growth has created wealth for a new generation of entrepreneurs that can benefit people both in China and around the globe.
Gates believes China's new philanthropists can help invest in research that benefits people in developing countries that don't have the money to invest in research and development. He added that the coronavirus pandemic has shown that no single entity can solve the biggest problems in the world.
They require collaboration from governments, nonprofits and businesses. Beijing and other Chinese donors gave to Gavi, which was in need of funding and has pledged to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to low-income countries when it is available.
Gates said China and its philanthropists will "accelerate the end of this pandemic" and "help create a better world after" by donating to Gavi and other multilateral health organizations like it.