On March 21, a little after 8am, an Air China plane landed at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos Airport beneath the deep blue Attika sky.
There to welcome it was the Chinese Ambassador to Greece and a number of ministers and deputy ministers of the Greek government.
When the plane stopped, Chinese embassy staff ran over and raised a banner that said in Greek and Chinese: “Friendship is a soul dwelling in two bodies,” (Aristotle).
The aircraft carried health-related material, which, according to a Chinese embassy briefing, contained “550,000 medical, surgical, and protective masks, medical glasses, gloves and shoe covers.”
And of course the representatives of the Greek government were there to express their gratitude.
Many of us remember when it was America that used to send us help in critical times.
Do you remember the yellow cheese, the clothing, etc.?
Apart from the material substance provided by the act, this is an excellent way to win the favor of another country.
It is a state’s great, indirect power – the so-called soft power.
Now, as unlikely as it sounds, America can help no one. Unfortunately, it is struggling to meet its own health needs.
But top U.S. officials are furiously fighting the “propaganda campaign” launched by China which seeks to undermine its reputation inside and outside the country over the mismanagement of the virus crisis and to replace the United States’ global influence.
The battle against China is led by President Trump. Last week, in briefing notes prepared for him to be used during one of the daily updates he presents to journalists, the text referred to the “coronavirus.”
But there is a photo that showed the President’s notes which crossed out the word “coronavirus” and replaced it with “China virus.”
Since then, despite protests from China but also from Asian Americans, some of whom have been victims of racist attacks, the President has continued to speak of the “Chinese” virus.
And that seems to be sticking.
In any case, many believe that now is not the right time to fix responsibility for the pandemic. They say that cooperation is crucial to taking steps as quickly as possible to control the situation.
PS: The article by Dr. John Ioannides that I cited in my recent commentary has generated a lot of reaction.
A couple of days ago, Thomas Friedman also mentioned him in his regular column in The New York Times: “Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, an epidemiologist and co-director of Stanford’s Meta-Research Innovation Center, pointed out in a March 17 essay on statnews.com, that we still do not have a firm grasp of the population-wide fatality rate of coronavirus. A look at some of the best available evidence today, though, indicates it may be 1 percent and could even be lower.”