'Mask diplomacy' a tool to bash China
Updated 10:35, 05-Apr-2020

The coronavirus outbreak has hit the world hard. Along with the alarming infection rates comes a colossal need for medical supplies. In this dire moment, China has provided assistance to 120 affected countries and four international organizations. Thousands of factories in China urgently resumed production to make desperately-needed test kits, masks and protective gear. To meet global needs, the country is churning out over 100 million masks every day, a five-fold increase from before the outbreak.

However, China's goodwill has been maliciously interpreted by some as an exercise in "mask diplomacy."

The AFP news agency asserted, "China is trying to paint itself as a Good Samaritan while deflecting criticism over its initial missteps in handling the coronavirus."

An article in The Diplomat accused Beijing of projecting soft and sharp power within Europe. It argued that China's aid has enabled it to "strike the strategic bliss point of currying the favors and winning hearts and minds of one-half of a divided Europe."

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell fired a warning shot at China's "politics of generosity," calling on the EU to stand ready for a "struggle for influence" in a "global battle of narratives."

"In exercising generosity, you, in a way, project soft power. This is true for China, this is true for the U.S., this is true for Europe. But what counts now is to make sure we all come to each other's help." This is how Arancha González Laya, Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs, responded to "mask diplomacy." She added that "Spain came to China's help at the beginning of the coronavirus, because we thought this was not only a good thing to do but the right thing to do. It makes sense to help a friend in need. And then China reciprocated this." 

Fighting a global pandemic requires solidarity, not political calculation. China understands this and its assistance has been warmly welcomed. "The only ones who can help us in this difficult situation is China," Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said earlier.

Italian Coronavirus Emergency Commissioner Angelo Borelli also praised China's assistance: "We are deeply grateful to China for its generous assistance."

However, some in the West are deliberately turning a deaf ear. For them, the need to bash China seems to carry more weight than protecting lives. Warm responses by Serbia and Italy have thus been interpreted as evidence of Beijing's "mask diplomacy."

In this global anti-epidemic fight, they have demonstrated unparalleled skills in playing the double standard game. Assistance from China is "mask diplomacy." But assistance from the West is "an act of humanitarianism." Strict quarantine measures by China are "violations of human rights," but similar measures by European countries are selfless efforts to contain the virus. Technology use in the epidemic fight is a "breach of privacy" in China, but a right thing to do so in the West.

On top of that, these anti-China hawks have made a fuss about the quality of China-made medical products. Admittedly, there have been cases of defective supplies in Chinese exports. However, these products were made by unlicensed firms and have nothing to do with the Chinese government.

No matter what good China does, anti-China hawks will just interpret things the other way round. This reflects Western vigilance of a rising China. Some are unwilling to accept the country's rapid rise. They are therefore manipulating every possible means, including the coronavirus, to bash China.

To beat a common enemy, the world needs to stand together. But as the virus is killing tens of thousands worldwide, some in the West are still wasting time with their anti-China game.

Script: Liu Jianxi

Video editing: Feng Ran

Senior Producer: Bi Jianlu

Managing Director: Mei Yan

Supervisor: Fan Yun

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