When the Coronavirus first broke out at the start of 2020, we were forced into an unknown world. This world entailed most people giving up their normal lives in exchange for lives where we struggled to steer clear from an invisible enemy — the Coronavirus. One way we tried to stay safe from the virus was through mask diplomacy. Now what exactly is mask diplomacy? This refers to how we, as a people, used masks to show solidarity with the rest of the world who were also fighting this invisible enemy.
Through mask diplomacy, we helped to keep ourselves and the people that we cared about safe from the virus. It is also through this endeavour that we came together as a people, as we fought this invisible enemy with our combined efforts. Let us now see how efforts of mask diplomacy truly binded different peoples in such trying times!
The Italian Outbreak
When the Coronavirus broke out in Italy, the country lacked medical supplies to care for all of its people (Verónica Fraile del Álamo and Darren J. Lim et al., 2021). However, Italy’s neighbours in Europe could not provide Italy the support that it needed because of how these neighbouring countries also had to prepare emergency stocks in case their countries would experience their own outbreaks (2021). Because of this situation, China seized this opportunity to ship masks to Italy as a message of solidarity (2021). These donations came from private companies, state-owned enterprises, and charitable entities such as the Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations. In addition to this, local governments in China with twin-city agreements also provided medical equipment to their Italian counterparts (2021).
One with Masks
Essentially, this story illustrates the power we have as peoples — the power to control our fates, in spite of such turmoil. This story also shows the symbolic power of an everyday item like masks, as this daily item became a conduit for diplomacy and international relations between China and Italy during Italy's dark times. In fact, China found ways to turn the negative publicity around them for having the epicentre of the pandemic. In addition to strengthening / fixing its diplomatic relations and publicity with Italy, they also helped Helsinki, Tallinn, Brussels, The Hague, Berlin, Paris, London, Dublin, Rome, Madrid, Athens, Warsaw, Bratislava, Prague, Budapest, Sofia, Bucharest, and Belgrade by providing these countries masks and medical equipment (Network, 2020). Through this gesture of sending out essential equipment to countries who needed help, China helped to restore its image with these countries.
Network, E. (2020, March 26). How effective is China’s “Mask diplomacy” in Europe? www.euractiv.com. https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/capitals-special-edition-how-effective-is-chinas-mask-diplomacy-in-europe/
Verónica Fraile del Álamo and Darren J. Lim, - Verónica Fraile del Álamo and Darren J. Lim, & Jiang, - Yun. (2021, April 21). Mask diplomacy: Shifting the COVID-19 narrative?. The China Story. https://www.thechinastory.org/yearbooks/yearbook-2020-crisis/forum-masks-and-wolves/mask-diplomacy-shifting-the-covid-19-narrative/