With the world combating the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, China is projecting its image as the global saviour that will pull the world out of this crisis. Beijing playing the role of the good samaritan is not solely based on its desire to help, there is also an element of geopolitics attached to the situation says experts talking to the EurAsian Times.
A case in point is Huawei’s reported donation of 800,000 face masks to the Netherlands last week. Analysts have questioned whether this was motivated by altruism or by the 5G telecom auction scheduled to take place in Amsterdam in June.
Dutch authorities have yet to decide whether to side with the U.S. and other European states in banning Huawei from developing 5G infrastructure over espionage concerns.
For years the United States played a pivotal role in addressing global, humanitarian crisis world over. When a tsunami hit Southeast Asia in 2004, killing over 200,000 or when the financial crisis erupted across the globe in 2008 or even when the deadly Ebola epidemic exploded in West Africa in 2014, Washington led the effort to bring nations together to develop a cooperative response.
However, with the Unites States ravaged with coronavirus pandemic, China has stepped in to fill the void created by America’s abdication of global leadership.
As EurAsian Times reported earlier, China has also donated hundreds of thousands of surgical masks and test kits to the Philippines and Pakistan, sent teams of medics to Iran & Iraq and also extended a $500 million loan to help Sri Lanka combat the deadly virus.
However, for all of Beijing’s PR efforts to shape the narrative of the crisis, it has also fallen short of expectations.
For instance, as per the report of El Pais, Spain after buying $467 million in medical supplies from China, including 950 ventilators, 5.5 million testing kits, 11 million gloves and more than half a billion protective face masks soon announced that it had planned to return 9,000 quick result test kits to China because they were deemed substandard.
China admitted that the kits they sold to Spain were bought from Bioeasy, a Chinese company not licensed to make them.
Spain now has at least 49,515 confirmed coronavirus cases, out of which 8,000 people were confirmed to have the virus in the past 24 hours according to its Ministry of Health. Nearly 27,000 people remain hospitalized as Spain scrambles to contain the virus.
As per NPR report verified by the EurAsian Times, soon after China sent shipments of medical supplies to Italy with a gigantic Chinese flag displayed on the supplies that read, “The friendship road knows no borders,” China’s President Xi Jinping called the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and told him that Beijing wanted to help Italy in its times of crisis and build a “Health Silk Road”.
But Beijing has not ceased its diplomatic efforts at wooing Italy and Spain only, the communist nation is showering all European nations with aid as part of a diplomatic charm offensive.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, whose country does not belong to the European Union, raised eyebrows last week when he called European solidarity a “fairy tale” and said the Chinese are the “only ones who can help.”
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said around the same time that “we will remember those who were close to us in this difficult period,” referring to China.
Given the dire crisis so many countries find themselves in, leaders around the world have shown their appreciation for China’s aid and assistance. “We’re grateful for China’s support,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted last week to thank Beijing for the 2 million surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks and 50,000 testing kits it was sent to Europe.
“If somebody is worried China is doing too much,” an Italian official told The New York Times when asked whether he was concerned about the geopolitical implications of Chinese aid, then they should step in. “The gap is open to other countries. This is what other countries should do.”
As the Covid-19 pandemic decreases in China and rises elsewhere, analysts talking to the EurAsian Times pointed out that this soft-power push would lead to diplomatic gains in the short term but in the long-term, it’ll be difficult for the Chinese government to blame others for the outbreak and to hide the fact that the pandemic originated in China and for weeks after the pandemic emerged, the Chinese leaders remained mum which could have controlled the outbreak.