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Coronavirus: Amid a worldwide shortage, China launches 'mask diplomacy'

Since March 1, China has exported 3.86 billion masks to more than 50 countries, according to Chinese customs officials.
Since March 1, China has exported 3.86 billion masks to more than 50 countries, according to Chinese customs officials. © FRANCE 24

Since the beginning of March and the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe, Chinese companies have sold nearly 4 billion face masks overseas, according to authorities. For Beijing, this is a perfect way to change the narrative: China is now offering its assistance to virus-hit countries while trying to leave the mistakes of the early outbreak in the past. 

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, face masks have become a hot commodity and international competition is fierce. Last week, a number of French politicians accused the US of buying up Chinese face masks ordered by France. In one case, the Americans allegedly outbid the French on the airport tarmac in China.

China is the biggest producer of masks on the planet and is getting orders from around the world. With the Covid-19 pandemic now under control in the country, factories have been mobilised to boost production. Since early April, China has been able to produce 200 million masks a day.

In the case of a second wave of infections, will China continue to send masks to the entire planet? With a population of 1.5 billion inhabitants, the country would need to protect itself too. 

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