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“World Leader”: EU Is Concerned with China’s “Mask Diplomacy”

The South China Morning Post reported that, since Europe suffered the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been conducting “Mask Diplomacy.” That is, through supplying the European Union (EU) countries with face masks and other medical equipment and materials, it is trying to boost its global leadership position and to control the discourse power. Beijing has blocked the shipping of medical supplies to other countries so that it can totally control which country it will help.

Italy, Spain, France, Austria, and many other EU countries, with Hungary being the latest, received aid or permission from China to import medical supplies from China. Some big Chinese corporate names – including billionaire Jack Ma and tech giant Huawei Technologies – have also sent medical equipment to the EU.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the EU, warned that Beijing “struggles for influence” in a “global battle of narratives.”

“There is a global battle of narratives going on in which timing is a crucial factor. China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner.

“In the battle of narratives we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus.

“The point for Europe is this: we can be sure that perceptions will change again as the outbreak and our response to it evolves. But we must be aware that there is a geopolitical component, including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity.’”

Two recent developments have driven EU officials closer to the rhetoric of regarding China as a “systemic rival,” a phrase first used under the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen’s predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker.

First, there is the sense that China’s leadership prefers to deal directly with European countries, rather than through the EU. Von der Leyen was the only major European leader who did not receive a phone call from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Second, the EU was startled by the reaction of Serbia, which was on course to begin accession talks at some stage to join the EU. When the EU hastily enacted an export ban on medical equipment, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic lambasted EU solidarity as a “fantasy,” turning instead to Xi, whom he called a friend and a brother.

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Source: South China Morning Post, March 24, 2020