torsdag 16. april 2020

Is Vietnam Taking a Leaf Out of China’s ‘Face Mask Diplomacy’ Playbook?

In March 2020, after President Xi Jinping toured Wuhan City to inspect progress in containing the coronavirus, Beijing unleashed a global propaganda campaign to tout China’s success, in response to foreign criticism that China had been slow in responding to and was not transparent enough in reporting the lethality of COVID-19. The hallmark of China’s response was the donation of face masks, personal protective equipment, test kits, ventilators and hand sanitizer to nearly ninety countries. This gave rise to the term ‘face mask diplomacy’.

Vietnam initially responded to the outbreak of the coronavirus by quickly isolating victims and tracing those who had been in contact, delaying the start of the school year, imposing social controls, cutting air flights to and from China and other virus hot spots, and other measures.

As Vietnam began to control the spread of COVID-19 domestically, it looked outward and initiated in own form of ‘face mask’ diplomacy. In February, Vietnam made symbolic donations of medical supplies to China’s Border Guards and China’s Ministry of National Defence. For example, on Feb. 8, Vietnam’s Ha Giang province Border Guards donated 1,000 face masks and twenty sanitizer containers to their counterparts in Yunan. Two weeks later, in a more formal ceremony, the head of Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defence, Department of Military Medicine handed over unspecified ‘medical equipment’ to China’s Ministry of Defence. Subsequently, on March 8, the Dien Bien province Border Guards gifted 10,000 medical face masks to their Chinese counterparts.

In late March, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc extended Vietnam’s ‘face mask diplomacy’ to Laos, Cambodia, and Russia.