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Pandemic No. 2: China’s ‘largesse’ even more deadly

Messages from overwhelmed doctors on Twitter are heartbreaking. Faulty test kits on top of the endless shifts in the hospitals are China’s gift. Nearly 80% of the kits gave false results in Spain, which now is a major hotspot after Italy. The story is the same in the Czech Republic where the health ministry paid $546,000 for 100,000 Chinese test kits.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 02, 2020, 03.50 PM IST
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Supply chains where China can hold the world hostage for life-saving ingredients for medicines in times of a pandemic should be reassessed.
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Advantage China? Well no, not so fast.

China wants to grab the mantle of global leadership, except it’s falling flat on its face -- the face it always tries so hard to save. Its propaganda has gone from pathetic to laughable.

China shouldn’t be allowed to ride to the finish line on the spikes of the very virus it helped unleash and imprisoned the world. Literally. Yes, while everyone else is under lockdown, Chinese factories are whirring again.

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Some in the west and in India declared China the winner the moment it claimed it had controlled the Coronavirus. They wrote admiring pieces especially because the United States struggled in its response so obviously. They praised China’s mask(ed) philanthropy and bemoaned American helplessness.

Chinese companies that made socks were suddenly making masks, and protective gear and selling them to Europe and Asia – a bald attempt by the regime to capture international goodwill. But it didn’t take even three weeks for the Chinese house of cards to collapse. The do-gooding proved it was no good.

China’s “largesse” is nothing if not a second, more deadly pandemic of propaganda and fake goods in Huawei-emblazoned boxes. The masks its state-supported companies are selling – not donating – don’t protect the doctors and its test kits produce false results.

From Spain to Italy, from the Czech Republic to Turkey to the Netherlands, governments are outraged and throwing out the supplies they bought from China in desperation.

Thanks but no thanks, they are saying. Medical supplies from China’s ramped up production don’t work just like the plastic toys except these exports are putting doctors and nurses in danger – the very people on the frontlines of the battle. Is this the stuff of global leadership?

Messages from overwhelmed doctors on Twitter are heartbreaking. Faulty test kits on top of the endless shifts in the hospital is China’s gift. Nearly 80% of the kits gave false results in Spain, which now is a major hotspot after Italy.

The story is the same in the Czech Republic where the health ministry paid $546,000 for 100,000 test kits from China. The Dutch also withdrew the kits they bought. Shouldn’t the Chinese regime answer a few questions?

The British government says China faces a moment of “reckoning” and risks becoming a “pariah state.” The Italians are furious with China’s disinformation campaign trying to shift the blame on them. Oh the Italians already had a strain of this virus! This came after Chinese claims the US army spread the virus in Wuhan. Now it’s a US aircraft carrier that carried it.

Diplomats are supposed to lie for their countries but Chinese ambassadors and state media are breaking records. They are shamelessly plugging a new “Health Silk Road” to Italians reeling under the virus.

It’s time to hold China accountable and leaders across the world must think about a long-term strategy. Questions must be raised when the world comes out on the other side of this virus. Should countries be tied to one “factory” for essential supplies?

The concept of globalisation should be reexamined. Supply chains where China can hold the world hostage for life-saving ingredients for medicines in times of a pandemic should be reassessed. The decision on 5G to allow China’s Huawei free play becomes all the more crucial. European eyes hopefully are wide open now.

Do governments want China to have control over next generation networks apart from the physical control they already exercise through supply chains? Cheap socks and T-shirts are one thing but essential medicines and communications infrastructure are quite another.

The time to rethink is now because China is already at work undermining democracies in the west, sowing discord in Europe and taking small countries such as Serbia into its deep pockets. Its vast influence operations in Australia and New Zealand are so well known there are TV serials about them.

The world is at a crossroads. Can it come together to counter the behemoth China has become on the backs of workers everywhere? It could be the moment to recapture space and not cede more to China. Global supply chains centered in China should be reconfigured or the next pandemic from China’s “wet markets” may bring more devastation.

Yes, corporate greed to save pennies on widgets and screws by going to China will have to be addressed. Some economic distancing may be necessary. Europe and the US will have to come together and lead the rest – this is an opportunity to give new life to the idea of a “rule-based” system.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)
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