Acceptance Denied

Germany is currently the only European country to reject Chinese offers of support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

BERLIN/BEIJING | | china

BERLIN/BEIJING (Own report) - Germany is the only country in Europe to have currently rejected China's offer of support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. According to China's President Xi Jinping, he informed Chancellor Angela Merkel that the People's Republic of China "is willing to provide help within our capabilities," if Germany "is in need." Over the past few days, Beijing has sent aid supplies and - in some cases - teams of doctors to provide practical on-site assistance to several European countries including Italy, Spain and France. Berlin has ignored the offer of support, even though there is, for example, a glaring shortage of respiratory protection masks in Germany. More than 80 percent of Germany's registered doctors are complaining that they cannot procure sufficient protective clothing. Serious accusations for failing to take preventive measures are being raised against the German government, which has been emphasizing that it is "well prepared." Leading German media are denouncing China's aid as a "propaganda campaign" and accuse the country of being "the cause of the pandemic." The only thing missing is the use of Trump's label of a "Chinese virus."

"Health Silk Road"

China is expanding its aid supplies to Europe in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. An initial transport of 31 tons of relief supplies - including respiratory protection masks and medical protective equipment - arrived at Rome's Fiumicino Airport on March 12. Over the past few days, other deliveries followed to Spain, France and Greece. Serbia, affected by an EU export ban, also enjoys the support from the People's Republic. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić also asked Beijing to send a team of medical experts familiar with the Chinese experience in dealing with the pandemic. Such teams have, for example, already arrived in Italy and most recently in its Lombardy region, which has been particularly hard hit by Covid-19.[1] According to reports other EU member countries, such as Bulgaria, Slovenia and Lithuania, are also interested in receiving Chinese aid.[2] In addition to the practical on-site support, Chinese experts are sharing their experiences with their European colleagues. The Chinese aid is partially organized by NGOs such as the Alibaba Foundation and the Jack Ma Foundation. The growing intensity of the aid measures is already referred to as a "Health Silk Road."

Offer Ignored

In the meantime, Chinese President Xi Jinping has also offered German Chancellor Angela Merkel support in the fight against the Covid-19 virus. Germany is the third most affected country in Europe - after Italy and Spain. "If Germany is in need, China is willing to provide help within our capabilities," XI announced. "Public health crises are the common challenges facing humankind, and unity and cooperation are its most powerful weapons."[3] Beijing was also ready to work with Berlin in other areas, such as vaccine development. So far there has been no response from Berlin. Germany is the only country in Europe that has actually rejected Beijing's aid - at least for the time being.

"Not even a Single Mask"

This is odd, because Germany has a glaring shortage of important materials and protective gear. More than 80 percent of Germany's registered physicians are complaining of a lack of protective equipment, such as face masks or protective smocks. Since the world market has been practically swept clean, the Chair of the Hamburg's Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Walter Plassman, reported recently that his organization had turned to the federal government for help. "Nothing came. We were provided with not even a single mask."[4] Hospitals have a similar experience, where respiratory masks and protective outfits are also lacking. The Minister of Health of North Rhine-Westphalia, Karl-Josef Laumann, recently placed an order for a million respiratory masks. At the end of last week, it was reported that only 20,000 of them have arrived. North Rhine-Westphalia is the state hardest hit by the pandemic. It is reported that, in Heinsberg alone, the epicenter of the regional Covid-19 illnesses, 7,500 mouth-nose face masks as well as 2,200 FFP2 masks are required daily.[5] Special equipment such as respirators are also lacking, as well as simple materials, such as disinfectants. The manufacturers are running out of the necessary raw materials.[6]

"Well Prepared"

Serious accusations against the German government - particularly the Minister of Health, Jens Spahn - have been raised since some time. Since the end of January, Spahn has repeatedly claimed that the German government is "well prepared" for any conceivable situation. However, his ministry took no precautions to rectify the foreseeable lack of protective clothing, as the World Health Organization (WHO) had already officially warned on February 7. The case of an entrepreneur, whose company manufactures protective masks and protective clothing for hospitals, has been documented. The entrepreneur had written several letters to the ministry of health, warning of the threatening shortages. He offered the ministry, to reserve 1.5 million face masks and 200,000 respiratory masks for German hospitals, and added the notice: "I appeal to you not to underestimate the problem of this virus."[7] The entrepreneur says he never received a response from Berlin. The ministry, on the other hand, denies responsibility stating, "the procurement of personal protective gear" in Germany is coordinated by the Procurement Office of the Bundeswehr.

Propaganda Campaign

While, in spite of the glaring shortage of protective gear, the German government is turning down China's offer of support, mainstream German media have begun systematically discrediting China's deliveries of support to other European countries. One leading German daily, for example, alleged that "the aid being provided with great fanfare" is simply "part of a propaganda campaign," with which Beijing seeks to distract from the fact that it "is the cause of the crisis."[8] Another paper states, "[China's] image as the cause of the pandemic, is now to be exchanged with that of the rescuer."[9] The People's Republic of China's European partners are being targeted for attack. One media organ predicted, if "the narrative of China, as the great helper, prevails," it will be "because the Chinese have found allies in Europe willing to help promote this myth." One such "ally" is Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, who, in his country, is already being "referred to as the 'Chinese minister'."[10]

Power Struggle against Beijing

In fact, the commentaries quoted above and Berlin's current refusal of China's support, are aspects of a major struggle for world power, that Germany continues to pursue, even in the midst of the Corona crisis. On the contrary, despite the crisis, the German government is currently preparing steps to facilitate the creation of an anti-Beijing military alliance in Asia and the Pacific region. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.

 

For more information see also EU Solidarity (II).

 

[1] Michael Peel, Tom Hancock, Valerie Hopkins, Miles Johnson: China ramps up coronavirus help to Europe. ft.com 18.03.2020.

[2] Alan Crawford, Peter Martin: 'Health Silk Road:'ssx China showers Europe with coronavirus aid as both spar with Trump. fortune.com 19.03.2020.

[3] Stuart Lau: Coronavirus: Xi Jinping calls leaders of France, Spain, Germany and Serbia with offers of support. scmp.com 21.03.2020.

[4] Cornelia Stolze: "Wir haben gemahnt, und keiner hat uns gehört". spiegel.de 19.03.2020.

[5] Lukas Eberle, Hubert Gude: "Liefert irgendwas!" spiegel.de 20.03.2020.

[6] Hersteller von Desinfektionsmitteln starten Hilferuf: Ethanol wird knapp. rnd.de 22.03.2020.

[7] Cornelia Stolze: "Wir haben gemahnt, und keiner hat uns gehört". spiegel.de 19.03.2020.

[8] Friederike Böge, Stephan Löwenstein, Michael Martens, Matthias Rüb: Vom Verursacher der Krise zum Retter in der Not? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.03.2020.

[9] Gloria Geyer: Wie sich China in der Corona-Krise Einfluss in Europa sichert. tagesspiegel.de 19.03.2020.

[10] Silke Wettach: China wirft die Propaganda-Maschine an. wiwo.de 19.03.2020.