China's PPE Donations Aid Countries with Diminishing Supplies and the Nation's Image
China works to generate goodwill internationally and among its own citizens with much-needed donations as medical gear becomes a new olive branch in the age of 'mask diplomacy.'
Some question China's intentions behind these ostensibly benevolent actions. According to Rhodes Scholar Brian Wong in their article for The Diplomat, a central feature of the newly coined "mask diplomacy" is an "emphasis on the distribution and supply of contextually important resources...as a means of securing mass and elite buy-in," especially in countries with strained relations with China. This could secure support making areas of Europe previously closed off to Chinese companies more amenable to investment.
Criticism of China's mask diplomacy is directed towards the government rather than individuals. The policies are seen not only as an attempt to repair relationships globally but also with its citizens. Alexandra Ma lists "suppressing early warnings, and hiding information from its citizens" as critical errors on the government's part.
The United States and Sweden, which have also been criticized for their responses, or lack thereof, are eager to repair their image internationally and regain the trust of their people. An article by the University of North Carolina associate professor Zeynep Tufekci in The Atlantic places responsibility for the U.S.' delayed response on multiple shoulders. Tufekci argues the primary downfall was an inability to "consider risk in its full context." Policies varied state-to-state from total lockdowns to late implementation of mask-wearing. Attempts have been made to standardize regulations across the country.
Sweden's controversial 'light-touch' approach faced heavy criticism and the government has since made concessions about the effectiveness of their tactics. Their approach relied on individual responsibility and herd-immunity theory. Swedish officials argue their plan is more nuanced but have also admitted the strategy did not effectively consider vulnerable populations.