After failing to rebrand the Wuhan Coronavirus as something other than a pathogen of Chinese origin, China’s officials decided to go on a charm offensive.

For instance, it sent “top quality N95 masks” to Pakistan. If “quality” meant “made of underwear,” then the claim is correct.

In a rather hilarious and an uncanny incident, China, the now ‘fair-weathered’ friend of Pakistan, had promised ‘top quality’ medical aid to Pakistan for fighting the deadly coronavirus infection has ended up sending N95 masks made out of underwear. China actually duped Pakistan as its ‘top quality’ aid failed to be of any help for Pakistan.

Reporting the news, the anchor of the Pakistani news channel said, “China ne chuna laga diya,” which in English means China actually conned us (Pakistan).

This report is on top of others, indicating China shipped European countries masks that failed to offer adequate protection and test kits that did not meet standards.

Furthermore, experts are noting that the charm is being paired with coercion, as China hopes to expand is power and influence.

In a video-teleconference last week, a panel of Hudson Institute foreign policy experts said this dual charm and coercion approach is Beijing’s way of “playing a depth game” to get its way on more significant issues, like territorial claims in the South China Sea, pushing Huawei as the world’s 5-G network giant and blocking Taiwan from participating in international groups like the World Health Organization even in a global crisis and asserting its political and economic power.

“China wants to be seen as the model” for treating COVID-19 in the Indo-Pacific region, said Patrick Cronin, an expert on the region. China is marketing itself as expert in treatment and containment.

However, Cronin said under scrutiny and experience, Chinese claims of expertise in manufacturing medical equipment is failing to hold up.

He said the Philippines, “one of the least prepared nations” in the world for the pandemic, received worthless testing equipment as did Indonesia when these nations noted the first outbreaks of COVID-19 inside their borders. The irony is the useless kits arrived at the same time Beijing stepped up pressure on both countries over territorial claims in disputed waters.

Conversely, the “other China” is using this as an opportunity to lend a much-needed hand.

Taiwan is taking to “mask diplomacy” to support its New Southbound Policy, a major foreign policy priority of the Tsai administration since its first term. Taipei will donate surgical face masks to New Southbound countries, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday. More than 1 million masks will be donated to help these countries combat the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs head Baushuan Ger said that some eight New Southbound countries that have requested assistance will receive face masks. The New Southbound Policy sought to recalibrate Taiwan’s overseas economic interactions with countries in South and Southeast Asia to reduce Taipei’s dependence on cross-strait trade with mainland China.

According to the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the masks that are being sent to New Southbound countries are primarily for the benefit of healthcare workers. According to Taiwanese reports, the countries that will be included in the first shipments include six Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries — Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia — and India.

Several countries in the region are rethinking their approach to mainland China. Japan is planning to offer monetary incentives to have companies relocate.

Japan has earmarked US$2.2 billion of its record economic stimulus package to help its manufacturers shift production out of China, as the coronavirus disrupts supply chains between the major trading partners.

The extra budget, compiled to try to offset the devastating effects of the pandemic, includes 220 billion yen (US$2 billion) for companies shifting production back to Japan and 23.5 billion yen for those seeking to move production to other countries, according to details of the plan posted online.

The timing is significant. Chinese President Xi Jinping was supposed to be on a state visit to Japan early this month, which would have been the first visit of its sort in a decade. He has not rescheduled his tour.

Reports indicate that India’s officials have taken a hard look at the nation’s relationship with China as well.

On social media and in articles and TV news shows, Indians are expressing anger at China and praise for Taiwan for their respective responses to the coronavirus.

  • India is currently under a three-week nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Many Indians blame China for withholding information about the coronavirus until late January and allowing its spread abroad.
  • The World Health Organization followed China’s lead and did not make public information that Taiwan had provided to it on Dec. 31 indicating the coronavirus was easily transmissible between humans. China has blocked Taiwan’s membership in the WHO.

Little wonder that mainland China has stepped up its publicity campaign targeting Taiwan.

China has accused Taiwan of “venomously” attacking the World Health Organization (WHO), taking advantage of the current coronavirus crisis to seek independence, and conspiring with internet users to spread racist comments, after the WHO chief said a racist attack directed at him had come from the island.

Taiwan had responded angrily on Thursday to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ assertion this week, and demanded he apologise, saying the accusations were “slander” and “extremely irresponsible”.

Taiwan, which China claims for itself, is excluded from the WHO because of China’s objections to its membership.

The government has said this resulted in it being unable to get timely information, putting Taiwanese lives at risk. The WHO denies the allegation.

I suspect the next wave of COVID-19 affecting China will be related to its market share and diplomatic standing among other nations.

 

 
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