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Italy gave China PPE to help with coronavirus — then China made them buy it back

Reports of Beijing’s diplomacy go from bad to worse

April 4, 2020

3:17 PM

4 April 2020

3:17 PM

China has tried to restore its image after lying to the world about the seriousness of its coronavirus outbreak, but its attempts at humanitarianism have turned out to be as slippery as its wet markets.

After COVID-19 made its way to Italy, decimating the country’s significant elderly population, China told the world it would donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help Italy stop its spread. Reports later indicated that China had actually sold, not donated, the PPE to Italy. A senior Trump administration official tells The Spectator that it is much worse than that: China forced Italy to buy back the PPE supply that it gave to China during the initial coronavirus outbreak.

‘Before the virus hit Europe, Italy sent tons of PPE to China to help China protect its own population,’ the administration official explained. ‘China then has sent Italian PPE back to Italy — some of it, not even all of it … and charged them for it.’


China taking advantage of Italy’s generosity is just the latest example of its disastrous diplomacy in the wake of the pandemic. Much of the supplies and testing kits China has sold to other countries have turned out to be defective. Spain had to return 50,000 quick-testing kits to China after discovering that they were faulty. In some cases, instead of apologizing or fixing the issue, China has blamed its defective equipment on others. China condescendingly told the Netherlands to ‘double-check the instructions’ on its masks, for example, after the Netherlands complained that half of the masks they were sent did not meet safety standards.

‘It’s so disingenuous for Chinese officials now to say we are the ones who are helping the Italians or we are the ones who are helping the developing world when, in fact, they are the ones who infected all of us,’ the senior administration official said. ‘Of course they should be helping. They have a special responsibility to help because they are the ones who began the spread of the coronavirus and did not give the information required to the rest of the world to plan accordingly.’

The official said China’s disinformation campaign delayed the US response by at least a month, as the coronavirus initially seemed to be a regional issue rather than a global one. As China downplayed the outbreak within its borders, nearly half a million people traveled to the US potentially carrying the virus.

‘The disinformation that China has put out is crippling responses around the world. We were a month behind because the Chinese did not share information,’ according to the official. ‘It’s hard for the world to accept that even the information that they’re putting out now is accurate and acceptable from an epidemiological standpoint. We’re operating on some level with a hand tied behind our back.’

China has still been underreporting coronavirus cases and deaths, for instance not including asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in its overall case count. The country has also claimed no new deaths from the virus, even as thousands of ash urns are shipped to local hospitals.


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