American author defies bias on China's coronavirus fight

2020-02-12 Xinhua Editor:Li Yan

Mario Cavolo, an Italian American living in China, felt compelled to balance the negative narratives surrounding how China handled the novel coronavirus outbreak, and his comments went viral.

Cavolo posted an article "Something's Not Right Here Folks" on social networking platform LinkedIn on Feb. 5, comparing the global reactions to 2009 H1N1 virus with current novel coronavirus based on figures and facts, countering what he calls "vicious attacks" on China and Chinese people.

"Something's not right with the way humanity is responding to what's happening here," wrote Cavolo, who juggles the roles of an author, entrepreneur and a public speaker. He has been in China for two decades.

"This vicious, political, xenophobic and racist attacks and smearing of all things (about) China needs to stop," he wrote, referring to hateful comments online and blindfolded criticism on China's efforts to battle the virus.

In an interview with Xinhua, Cavolo said that the rise of China has been an incredible thing. "It feels in many ways like a threat to a Western superior position. That's definitely one of the big pieces that are at the root why there are always so many negative comments about China."

"We are at a time when people are required by the circumstances of life to sacrifice. There is no conspiracy here. It is just tragedy," he added.

By Tuesday morning, around 1.7 million people had read the original article with almost 3,000 comments. Some Chinese media outlets published his article.

Cavolo said his target readership are like-minded people, and the majority of the responses are positive.

"I'm thrilled that the message I wrote came to unite tens of millions of people at this very important time for China," he said.

For the negative comments on his article, Cavolo did not feel bothered.

"Their response is exactly the reason why I wrote the article," he said. "I knew someone would reply in a very negative way based on nothing but hearsay, attitude and emotions."

He chose to stay in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, during the outbreak.

"We do feel some concerns because nobody wants to contract a dangerous disease, so it's okay to be worried. But with everything we are practicing, it is safer to stay put," he said.

Cavolo and his family live in Shenyang. "This is my home, and I wouldn't want to go anywhere else," he said.

The overall confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection on the Chinese mainland had reached 44,653 by the end of Tuesday, and 1,113 people had died of the disease.

Almost all the provincial-level regions have dispatched medical personnel to Hubei Province, which is hit hardest by the virus. By Feb. 9, Liaoning Province had sent over 1,300 medical staff to Hubei.

"We don't need anti-China sentiments. It is not helpful. We are in the middle of a tragedy. China is protecting people all over the world, not just Chinese people," he said.

Cavolo wrote in his article that it is impossible not to marvel at China's broad and active domestic response directed by the provincial-level governments to restrict movement, transportation and business for a period of time.

"If you think about the responsibility of a dutiful citizen, 1.4 billion people in China have voluntarily stayed at home, doing what should be done -- not spreading the virus. It's amazing," he said.

There is no accurate number yet about how many people have been staying at home at the call of the government in a joint effort to prevent the spreading of the virus. Some netizens claimed that was about 200 million.

Cavolo said what he described in the article was based on what he witnessed over the past weeks.

"Everyone has pulled together to offer help to those in need. For example, the security guards at local communities, who are at the gates of apartments, are ready to take temperatures and make sure everyone going in and out wear masks," he said.

In 2014, Cavolo had his first book on China published featuring the rising middle class. His second book on China was in print four years later.

Cavolo said his third book will specifically focus on China's northeastern region and Shenyang, and the novel coronavirus outbreak will become "an integral part of the story."

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