March 25, 2020

“Mask diplomacy”: China tries to project soft power

“Mask diplomacy”: China tries to project soft power by supporting pandemic-stricken countries

MERICS

Chinese state and non-state actors, foundations and companies are sending exports and donations of medical equipment to European countries hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations, Chinese tech companies Huawei and Xiaomi, the Chinese Red Cross and others have provided surgical masks, protective suits, testing kits and lung ventilators for intensive care units. Chinese medical doctors also arrived in Italy to help.  

However, these donations have come under scrutiny against the backdrop of Beijing’s campaign to shape the global narrative on the coronavirus outbreak. Beijing aims to divert attention away from the Chinese government’s initial cover-up of the epidemic, which delayed the international response to what is now a pandemic. 

China wants to project its soft power abroad by promoting itself as a model for handling health emergencies. Official Chinese statements have also been glossing over the fact that at least part of what is reaching Europe are not donations, but exports of medical supplies purchased by European countries. 

Some Eurosceptic leaders very explicitly welcomed the support from China and pointed to what they perceive as a lack of support from the EU. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic even kissed the Chinese flag when a batch of supplies arrived from China, calling European solidarity “a fairytale.” Serbia received a 7.5 million EUR donation from the EU amid the spread of the coronavirus. 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell acknowledged that there is a “global battle of narratives going on” on the coronavirus, which sometimes extended to discrediting the EU: “There is a geo-political component including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity.’”

News in briefr by supporting pandemic-stricken countries

Chinese state and non-state actors, foundations and companies are sending exports and donations of medical equipment to European countries hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations, Chinese tech companies Huawei and Xiaomi, the Chinese Red Cross and others have provided surgical masks, protective suits, testing kits and lung ventilators for intensive care units. Chinese medical doctors also arrived in Italy to help.  

However, these donations have come under scrutiny against the backdrop of Beijing’s campaign to shape the global narrative on the coronavirus outbreak. Beijing aims to divert attention away from the Chinese government’s initial cover-up of the epidemic, which delayed the international response to what is now a pandemic. 

China wants to project its soft power abroad by promoting itself as a model for handling health emergencies. Official Chinese statements have also been glossing over the fact that at least part of what is reaching Europe are not donations, but exports of medical supplies purchased by European countries. 

Some Eurosceptic leaders very explicitly welcomed the support from China and pointed to what they perceive as a lack of support from the EU. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic even kissed the Chinese flag when a batch of supplies arrived from China, calling European solidarity “a fairytale.” Serbia received a 7.5 million EUR donation from the EU amid the spread of the coronavirus. 

EU High Representative Josep Borrell acknowledged that there is a “global battle of narratives going on” on the coronavirus, which sometimes extended to discrediting the EU: “There is a geo-political component including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity.’”

News in brief

No comments: