Staff load medical materials bound for Italy at Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, March 17, 2020. Photo: Xinhua/Zheng Mengyu via Getty Images
AS THE NUMBER of coronavirus infections spirals out of control, the U.S. and countries around the world have reported major shortages of ventilators, respirators, test kits, surgical masks, and other essential health equipment for dealing with the pandemic. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump continued to blame China and doubled down on his use of the racist term “Chinese virus.”
Yet now that the situation in China appears to have stabilized, the country is positioning itself at the head of the global response to Covid-19, adopting a unique leadership position that may alter global power relations, despite the biggest shock to its industrial output and economy in recent history and its coverup in Wuhan at the beginning of the crisis.
“The only country that can help us is China. For the rest of them, thanks for nothing.”
Western Europe and the U.S. are struggling under the weight of the crisis, with cases rising exponentially every day and higher death rates in Italy than anywhere else. China’s private and public sectors are filling in gaps in equipment where other states are failing, although the spread of the disease is such that demand for those materials might quickly outpace China’s supply. The government and Jack Ma, a Chinese billionaire and co-founder of the Alibaba Group, have already sent doctors and medical supplies to France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, and the United States. Chinese citizens living abroad are flying home in large numbers to avoid catastrophic health failures elsewhere. In Massachusetts, a Chinese woman tried and failed to be tested three times for Covid-19 before flying back home to be tested and treated.
“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,” said Dr. Yangyang Cheng, a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University who writes the science and China column for SupChina.[…]