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China’s ‘mask diplomacy’: Communist PR campaign

A flight carrying 70 tonnes of medical supplies from Wuhan to Sydney was part of a Chinese government PR campaign, politicians and diplomats have claimed.

The nation’s Communist Party is on a mission to show its 1.4billion citizens – and the rest of the world – that it’s taking action to save lives after failing to contain the coronavirus, Labor senator Kimberley Kitching told Daily Mail Australia.

China is the world’s largest supplier of masks and its companies have flown four billion around the globe since the start of March while its state media mouthpieces make sure the world knows about every flight. 

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell called this strategy the ‘politics of generosity’ and said ‘China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner’.

 

Several websites ran photos of the crew smiling and holding a propaganda banner (pictured) which praised the re-opening of Wuhan as the plane was prepared for take off

The flight (pictured before take off) was the first to leave Wuhan, where the virus erupted in December, since it was locked down on 23 January - and has been hailed in the Chinese media

The flight (pictured before take off) was the first to leave Wuhan, where the virus erupted in December, since it was locked down on 23 January – and has been hailed in the Chinese media

China’s PR campaign last night reached Australia when a plane from the COVID-19 epicentre landed at Sydney International Airport carrying one million masks, protective gear, antiseptic wipes and a batch of coronavirus testing kits.

The aircraft has already returned to Hubei province carrying Australian food products including lamb, salmon and milk powder.

The flight was the first to leave Wuhan, where the virus erupted in December, since the city of 11million was locked down on 23 January – and has been hailed in the Chinese media.

Several websites ran photos of the crew smiling and holding a propaganda banner which praised the re-opening of flight routes through Wuhan as the plane was prepared for take off. 

The party-controlled People’s Daily website wrote that China is ‘making contributions to the world in the fight against the COVID-19.’

State broadcaster Xinhua carried other stories portraying President Xi Jinping as a global saviour, with headlines such as: ‘Xi says China will continue to support Africa in COVID-19 battle’ and ‘Xi says China will help Turkey purchase medical supplies.’ 

A freight plane which arrived in Sydney on Wednesday night from Shanghai via Wuhan brought 70 tonnes of face masks and medical supplies

A freight plane which arrived in Sydney on Wednesday night from Shanghai via Wuhan brought 70 tonnes of face masks and medical supplies

The China Daily media organisation tweeted that China was sending a flight with medical supplies to the US. China is the world's largest supplier of masks and its companies have flown four billion around the globe since the start of March while its state media mouthpieces make sure the world knows about every flight

The China Daily media organisation tweeted that China was sending a flight with medical supplies to the US. China is the world’s largest supplier of masks and its companies have flown four billion around the globe since the start of March while its state media mouthpieces make sure the world knows about every flight

But politicians in Australia are aware of the Communist Party’s PR campaign.

Senator Kitching, the chair of the Foreign Affairs References Committee, said Beijing is trying to make up for failing to stop the pandemic spreading around the world. 

‘Despite managing to contain further domestic spread of the virus in recent weeks, Beijing is aware that their initial actions, or lack thereof, led to this becoming a global health pandemic,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

Beijing is aware that their initial actions, or lack thereof, led to this becoming a global health pandemic 

‘Beijing has a two-prong strategy: firstly, the need to target a message for a domestic audience; and secondly, to project as a responsible global actor among the international community.’

Several Australian MPs have already called for Beijing to be held to account after the virus spawned in a wildlife market known to pose health risks.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma said on Wednesday it was right for the world to respond to China with ‘anger and consternation and demand some sort of transparency and accountability in future.’

Further flights are expected to bring supplies from China to Australia, and another plane is due to land at Sydney Airport at 9.15am on Friday.

The Australia China Goodwill Association, a group of Chinese-Australians in Sydney, has called the flights a ‘bilateral goodwill measure, coordinated to support people in need both in Australia and China.’

Last night the six crew from the cargo flight which arrived in Sydney on Wednesday quietly slipped into a four-star hotel after making their way from the tarmac directly to the Rydges Hotel at the airport.

The crew were left to their own devices to check in, despite police and military personnel monitoring other hotels housing returned travellers, who are required to complete a mandatory two-week quarantine. 

They will be expected to self-isolate until they return to China. 

A truckload of face masks and medical supplies is taken away after the haul arrived in Sydney overnight

A truckload of face masks and medical supplies is taken away after the haul arrived in Sydney overnight

When asked what the situation was currently like in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province widely accepted as the original epicentre of the deadly respiratory virus, one of the crew members said it was business as usual.

‘It is normal,’ he said, before telling Daily Mail Australia he and his crew had brought face masks to help in the local fight against COVID-19.

Since the outbreak began at least 3,300 people have died in China and 81,802 have been infected. At least 2,571 of the nation’s reported deaths were in Wuhan.

Globally, there are now 1.4million known cases. 

The crew seemed shocked to learn they were the first arrivals from Wuhan since January 23.

Boxes of face masks are among the 90 tonnes of medical supplies which arrived via freight plane in Sydney on Wednesday

Boxes of face masks are among the 90 tonnes of medical supplies which arrived via freight plane in Sydney on Wednesday

The medical supplies were being dispatched from the freight terminal at Sydney Airport on Thursday morning

The medical supplies were being dispatched from the freight terminal at Sydney Airport on Thursday morning

Pictured: Employees once the plane landed in Sydney

Pictured: People wearing protective gear and hi-vis vests

Airline employees and cargo handlers dressed in protective gear began unpacking the plane in the dead of night

Airline employees and cargo handlers dressed in protective gear began unpacking the plane in the dead of night

Airline employees and cargo handlers dressed in protective gear began unpacking the plane in the dead of night

One member of the crew said while it was true they did arrive from the city, they originally came from Shanghai.

‘We just did a stop in Wuhan,’ the man said.   

Earlier on Sunday, airline employees and cargo handlers dressed in protective gear began unpacking the plane in the dead of night.

One man in a hazmat suit was pictured carrying away a small box, while another photo showed pallets stacked full of packaged goods beside the plane.  

The medical supplies were brought in via a freight carrier Suparana airlines

The medical supplies were brought in via a freight carrier Suparana airlines 

Boxes upon boxes sat on the tarmac at Sydney airport on Thursday morning ready to be shipped off

Boxes upon boxes sat on the tarmac at Sydney airport on Thursday morning ready to be shipped off 

They walked from the tarmac to their hotel, mostly while practicing safe social distancing in pairs

They walked from the tarmac to their hotel, mostly while practicing safe social distancing in pairs

The crew members were not met by any police or military personnel as they checked in to their accommodation

The crew members were not met by any police or military personnel as they checked in to their accommodation

The crew members were not met by any police or military personnel as they checked in to their accommodation

The crew members were not met by any police or military personnel as they checked in to their accommodation

The crew members arrived at the accommodation wearing face masks and gloves. Members of staff told Daily Mail Australia they were importing face masks

The crew members arrived at the accommodation wearing face masks and gloves. Members of staff told Daily Mail Australia they were importing face masks

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk