From the 24th Jan to the 29th of Feb, China imported 2.46 billion shipping cartons of supplies for epidemic prevention, valued at 8.21 billion yuan (NZ$1.92b), according to official customs data announced on March 7th. Among them were 2.02 billion facial masks and 25.38 million protective suits.
As early as 24 Jan, the PRC (People’s Republic of China) Consulate-General in New Zealand had mobilised a team to help buy up goods.
“Keep on buying and sending back to China [medical supplies], and try your best to buy as much as possible,” read one article posted on the official website of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s United Front Work Department, an agency dedicated to spreading the regime’s agenda inside and outside China. In the West, United Front Organizations are usually Chinese student unions at colleges and universities, Chinese chambers of commerce, and Chinese associations.
The United Front encouraged all overseas Chinese to follow in the association’s footsteps in buying up all available medical materials and send them back to China.
An article published by SkyKiwi reveals that
- China Construction Bank (New Zealand) Limited coordinated the delivery of 26,000 masks, 4000 protective gowns, 53,000 medical gloves and 920 safety glasses to China.
- The Hainan Airlines Group, a Chinese company with strong state ties, delivered 1000 N95 masks from New Zealand to Wuhan.
- On 5 Feb Mr. Wu Wei shipped 1100 protective gowns to China via Trademonster, an Auckland and Shanghai-based firm which sells products for New Zealand businesses on Chinese e-commerce sites. The shipment was combined with purchases from Chinese with extensive ties to United Front Organisations such as the NZ Chinese Students Association and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Mr Song Zihao collected a total of 480 protective masks while Ms Hou Yifang gathered a total of 5,000 surgical masks, protective goggles and other medical equipment.
- Furthermore, a shipment of 8,254 medical gowns was sent to Hunan via Aion Cargo and China Southern airlines.
- By 4 Feb, the China Construction Bank (New Zealand) Limited received a donation of $12,923.
- In a separate funding event, fourteen firms including Haier and Latipay collected donations totaling $60,000 by 7th Feb.
Not enough protective medical gear available for Health Workers
Despite reassurances from the government, health workers in New Zealand have been reporting shortages of medical gear.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has said that 200,000 masks were being produced locally each day. However medical personnel have since told Stuff that the number of COVID-19 tests undertaken have been limited due to a lack of personal protective equipment.
Yesterday, Hutt Hospital staff told Stuff that 100,000 decade-old masks provided to healthcare workers “snapped and then disintegrated” as health workers tried to fit them.
University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady told Stuff that the shipments of medical equipment to China in the early stages of the pandemic has likely aggravated the shortage.
“While the New Zealand Ministry of Health have a stockpile of masks and other PPE which they say is sufficient for our hospitals, ordinary New Zealanders and non-health workers have missed out on access to masks which are normally available in our pharmacies and hardware stores, because our public supplies were bought up in bulk and sent to China in an organised effort by Chinese Communist Party Government proxy groups, as well as by profiteers who are now selling New Zealand-origin masks on Taobao, and also by a few well-meaning individuals who wanted to support family and friends in China.
“The Government’s reticence to endorse public mask-wearing in New Zealand reflects that health officials were well aware that there have been none available in New Zealand and since late January 2020. We are being instructed to make cloth masks, but we would not have these shortages now if the Government had restricted the export of medical equipment and limited how many masks one individual could purchase—as Taiwan did.”
Beijing’s “Mask diplomacy”
The Chinese regime has sent out medical experts and much-needed supplies, such as masks and respirators, to countries ranging from Italy to Peru.
Experts have called out Beijing’s “mask diplomacy” as part of a broader campaign to change the global narrative—with the ultimate aim of deflecting blame away from Beijing’s initial mishandling of the outbreak that eventually metastasized into a global pandemic.
Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia and director of the China Power Project at Washington-based Think Tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Epoch Times that to counter the regime’s attempts to elevate its international standing amid the crisis, media should highlight that Beijing is trying to profit from the global shortage.
“China ramped up its supply of masks and other medical supplies as the epidemic raged in China, and now China has a lot of surplus that it wants to make money on,” Glaser said in an email.