New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced over the weekend that China is facilitating a donation of 1,000 ventilators to the Empire State, which has been the most affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“We finally got some good news today,” Cuomo said during a briefing. “The Chinese government helped facilitate a donation of 1,000 ventilators that will arrive in JFK [airport] today.”
“I want to thank Ambassador Huang [Ping] very much for his help in making all of this happen because this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a significant difference for us,” the governor added.
Jack Ma and Joe Tsai, billionaire co-founders of the Chinese multinational corporation Alibaba, reportedly contributed to the donations personally and through their respective philanthropical foundations.
Spread of the COVID-19 virus has been drastic in New York, where the number of cases has doubled since a week ago, reaching a total of 113,704 with 3,565 deaths as of Saturday.
“We still don’t have the support we need, particularly from the federal government,” Cuomo said on MSNBC. “The worst is actually ahead.”
Cuomo’s remark raises the question of New York and other states’ preparations for such situations. That the governor expects the federal government to provide the bulk of the support New Yorkers need ignores the fact that Washington has no money or resources of its own—only what it taxes from the citizens of other states that are currently dealing with their own virus-related needs.
China, however, has shown itself more than willing to fill in the gaps in the western world’s pandemic preparedness. Now that its outbreak has allegedly stabilized, the communist state seeks to position itself as a global leader in helping other countries recover from the virus.
While the U.S. still struggles to meet demand for medical masks for its own population, for instance, China is sending large quantities of masks to hard-hit countries., such as Italy.
“This could be the first major global crisis in decades without meaningful U.S. leadership and with significant Chinese leadership,” observed Rush Doshi, director of the China Strategy Initiative at Washington’s Brookings Institution.
In part, China’s policy serves a public relations purpose, an attempt to temper the international community’s anger against the sleeping giant for being the originator of the coronavirus pandemic.
“China is now trying to repair its severely damaged international image due to its mishandling of the outbreak in Wuhan in early January,” writes Claremont McKenna College professor Minxin Pei. “Donating medical supplies shows China is a responsible and generous world power.”
But Pei suggests China’s are motivated by more than altruism.
“It is also touting its success in containing the coronavirus outbreak to suggest its one-party regime is superior to the bumbling democracies in the West, in particular the U.S.”
But world leaders unable to take care of their country’s needs by themselves are unconcerned about the consequences of further empowering authoritarian communist regime.
“I don’t know and now I don’t care,” said Michele Geraci, a former undersecretary in the Italian economic development ministry, when asked whether assistance from China was motivated by humanitarian or geopolitical considerations.
“The Chinese government has been trying to project Chinese state power beyond its borders and establish China as a global leader, not dissimilar to what the U.S. government has been doing for the better part of a century, and the distribution of medical aid is part of this mission,” muses Cornell University research associate Dr. Yangyang Cheng.
Many U.S. political leaders are now lamenting America’s dependence on Chinese manufacturing, especially when it comes to medical materials. It’s not uncommon right now to see columns and op-eds like one recently published at the establishment Republican Washington Examiner, titled “Time for the US to declare independence from China.”
Yet it’s the Republican establishment that has for decades enabled the transfer of America’s industrial base to China under the banner of free trade—panning as extremists anyone who, like Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot, dared to question this “sacrosanct” doctrine.
As is so often the case in our history, the American political establishment created the very threat it now tells us we should be afraid of.
It was the establishment, after all, that allowed China to fall to the communists in the first place. And it was the establishment that normalized relations with the red giant (recall Nixon goes to China), which opened the door to China becoming the cheap labor capital of the world.
Bruno Maçães, a former Secretary of State for European Affairs in Portugal, described the coronavirus panic as a “battleground.”
“I see China focused on using the crisis as an opportunity to play up the superiority of its model,” he said.