First there were promises of solidarity, now there is mistrust. As the first country to deal with the covid-19 violence, and having been forced into an initial lockdown of a significant part of its economy, China led the way in combating the pandemic and, later, in withdrawing social containment measures. But little by little diplomatic relations are cooling.
With a keen sense of opportunity, at first, Beijing provided information on the virus, medical teams, clinical material and know-how on public health measures. For example, on March 13, when the number of infected people in Italy reached 10,000, China sent a Red Cross medical team, 30 tons of masks, boxes with fans, all properly packed with the Chinese flag, to Rome.
Closer relations with Europe, a market that, unlike the United States, has prevented open trade wars with Beijing, would be an advantage that promised economic fruit in the future. But in recent weeks the strategy has been derailed and mistrust has taken hold.
One of the episodes that turned the needles of diplomacy took place in Paris, on April 12th. On the website of the Chinese embassy in France, an unsigned text was published - which appears to be that of a Chinese diplomat - accusing French household officials of leaving elderly people infected with the new coronavirus to die, delivered to their fate, without assistance . It also openly criticizes the European media for "stigmatizing China" and blaming Beijing for the pandemic, by raising doubts about the quality of the information made available on the first days of the outbreak.
The French executive reacted immediately, asking China for explanations. The statements in the aforementioned post "do not fit our bilateral relationship," said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Beijing rushed to classify the episode as a "misunderstanding", but the marks remained.
Especially because mistrust was already hovering. Bloomberg says that in a conference call on March 25, between G-7 foreign ministers (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States), the need for Europe to remain attentive to the Chinese moves and how Beijing can exploit the current advantage over lockdown economies.
On April 17, Bild, the largest German tabloid newspaper, published an open letter addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping, accusing him of "putting the world at risk". This is just another reflection of strained relationships. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Bild that the recent review of the number of deaths caused by covid-19 in China is "alarming", French President Emmanuel Macron stressed in an interview with the Financial Times that "there are clearly things that happened [in China] that we don't know about ", and Dominic Raab, from the British Executive, argued that when the pandemic passes, it will not be possible to return to" business as usual "with China.