‘Chinese Fauci’ breathes new life into the fight against Covid-19

When Shanghai struggled to convince the public to stay at home because of Covid-19 early last year, Truong Van Hong, who was dubbed the “Chinese Fauci”, stepped in.

“People at home are bored to death, so the virus will also be bored to death,” infectious disease expert Truong Van Hong said in a typical Shanghainese accent. “Stay at home for two weeks and we’ll be one step closer to success.”

Dr. Truong’s urgent and lively public appeal immediately attracted the attention of the city of 25 million people, earning him the nickname “Father Truong”. The video of the 52-year-old expert’s speech was then widely shared on Shanghai’s online portals, even being reposted by the state news agency Xinhua.

Since last year, Zhang, the head of Shanghai’s Covid-19 expert panel, has become the face of China’s fight against the pandemic.

He is currently one of the country’s most famous and respected medical professionals, owning nearly 4 million followers on the social network Weibo. International media called Zhang “Chinese Fauci”, although he does not hold a government position like Anthony Fauci, the White House medical adviser.

However, similar to Fauci, whose communication style made him stand out amid the chaotic response to Covid-19 of the administration of former US president Donald Trump, his deft speech and respectful demeanor. Zhang brought a “breath of fresh air”, not unlike the style Chinese officials usually display in public.

Dr. Truong Van Hong, head of the expert panel on Covid-19 of Shanghai city, China.  Photo: CGTN.

Dr. Truong Van Hong, head of the expert panel on Covid-19 of Shanghai city, China. Photo: CGTN

“In China, we don’t often see a technocrat speaking to the public in this way. It’s not easy to be so outspoken in the current context, but Zhang understands that as an expert he means something. service to speak common sense and communicate with the public in plain language,” said Professor Zhengming Chen at Britain’s Oxford University, who attended the same university as Zhang.

Hoang Nghiem Trung, a senior global health expert at the American Council on Foreign Relations, expressed his agreement and assessed that Truong “is completely in line with the Chinese public’s expectations of the intellectual world”. traditional way”.

“He did some important public health work, but became famous largely for telling the truth and staying true to himself. It was also a reminder to Beijing officials that to be completely persuasive. To serve the public, you have to go back to the basics,” Hoang added.

Last year, when Chinese and foreign experts argued that the antiviral drug Remdesivir or the Chinese drug was more effective in preventing Covid-19, Zhang implied in an interview that the debate was political. Such treatment makes no sense. “If you want to know a donkey or a horse, just try it out,” he said.

Zhang’s persuasion skills, along with his “zero tolerance” virus containment strategy in China, paid off, as Shanghai only recorded 350 community-based nCoV infections in June 2020. Chinese people have also been enjoying a near-pandemic life for most of last year.

Truong’s popularity did not just stem from his unique ability to persuade. Soon after he became a familiar face in Shanghai, Zhang’s fans compiled a list of “golden sayings” that proved his public speaking skills and qualities.

During a talk show, Zhang tried to explain to the audience the difference between a cold and the flu, because the two words sound similar in Chinese. “The flu is not a cold, like a tiger not a cat,” he said.

When advising people not to share food on the same plate, which is a custom of the Chinese people, Zhang said: “We don’t advocate that, but that’s what everyone has to do. Not sharing food different discs like you don’t wear any armor before the epidemic, very dangerous.”

In an interview with the newspaper China Daily, when asked about his legacy, Truong said that when the pandemic is over, he “will also leave quietly”. “Fame only reduces the joy in my life,” Zhang explained in another interview with Shanghai TV last year.

Truong’s ability to explain complex issues also earned him the respect of senior officials. Last year, after giving a speech to Chinese students in the US, Zhang received a handwritten note from Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US at the time. The Shanghai-born diplomat praised Zhang’s “honest” style and promised to visit him when he returned home.

However, fame often comes with scrutiny and controversy. On July 29, as the Delta strain began to spread in China, Zhang posted on social media calling for “wise” living with the virus for a long time, an approach that has been adopted by countries such as the UK and Singapore. use.

This frank point of view provoked criticism from Truong. Some social media users accused him of “inciting ideas from abroad” and becoming “a servant of America”, while others began focusing on his education.

On August 14, Weibo appeared a post accusing Zhang of plagiarizing part of his doctoral thesis 21 years ago. Fudan University in Shanghai, his alma mater, quickly issued a statement saying it had begun investigating the matter. Truong was criticized as an “academic cheat” and went too far, when he disagreed with the government’s “no Covid” policy.

However, Zhang’s supporters are still adamant about publicly defending him, arguing that the accusations stem from a group of people who want to get rid of Truong. “If a society can’t even tolerate someone like Truong Van Hong, it’s the misfortune of a country,” wrote one social media user.

“Thung’s defenders don’t dismiss all criticism just because they like him, but they think it’s unfair for someone to try to discredit him just because of disagreement,” another said.

Truong did not directly respond to the attacks, but finally broke the silence after three weeks on August 18. “The anti-Covid-19 strategy adopted by the country is the most suitable one for us at the moment. You have to try the shoes yourself to know if they fit or not,” he wrote on Weibo.

Five days later, Fudan University released a statement saying the investigation “found no evidence of academic misconduct” by Mr.

Luster (Follow Guardian)

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