Wed, 27 May 2020

Rome [Italy], April 2 (ANI): An Italian political cartoon, going viral on Facebook, pretty much sums up the Italy, China, EU relationship amid coronavirus pandemic. The cartoon shows Italy as a suffering princess, receiving assistance from China- portrayed as a prince, while the EU stands as Grim Reaper.

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, when Italy and Iran were still coming to terms with the virus scare, it was noted how the countries most affected by the pandemic were those with close ties to China.

Indeed, Italy, most severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, was one of the first Western countries and first G-7 to join Chinese President's Xi Jinping's dream project -- Belt and Road Initiative.

Now, as Italy struggles to deal with pandemic which has left thousands dead, Beijing has offered help to Rome, although that comes with wide publicity.

The country has reported more than 1 lakh cases of coronavirus while the death toll has surpassed 10,000.

According to an Al Jazeera report on March 14, a planeload of medical supplies, including masks and respirators, arrived in Italy from China.

"A batch of medical supplies have arrived in Belgium; 1.8 million masks and 100,000 reagents are on the way. The supplies will then be delivered to ItalySpain and to the frontline," reads a tweet on the timeline of Hua Chunying, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Director General, Department of Information, Chinese Foreign Ministry dated March 11.

The Al Jazeera report, noted, how "in contrast to China, Italy's partners in the European Union (EU) earlier this month refused Rome's requests for help with medical supplies as they looked to stockpile face masks and other equipment to help their own citizens."Last year, Italy joined the BRI -- the project critics say is a debt trap, resisting pressure from US and EU. The move threatened to wedge rift between Rome and its traditional allies.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought into play several geopolitical equations apart from China-Italy relations.

European Commission President Ursula praised Taiwan for donating millions of mask to help the bloc battle the coronavirus pandemic.

"The European Union thanks Taiwan for its donation of 5.6 million masks to help fight the coronavirus. We really appreciate this gesture of solidarity," Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

The move is expected to rile Beijing which considers Taiwan as a part of itself.

A report in South China Morning Post noted how the bloc has grown "concerned about China's massive but selective donations to European countries, prompting its top diplomat to accuse China of practising the "politics of generosity"."The report, citing a diplomatic source, said the bloc made its manoeuvre "in such a way that the EU could hit China with the same argument it uses all the time: that mask donations should not be politicised".

China's 'politics of generosity' has led to critics saying that Europe has lacked solidarity to fight the outbreak of the virus.

According to DW report dated March 20, a group of Chinese medical experts arrived in the region to advise Italian public health officials with the first team from China arriving on March 12 itself in Rome with 31 tons of essential supplies and equipment which were donated by both by Chinese government and private donors.

Another Chinese team flew directly to Milan on March 18.

DW cited, Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI) in Berlin as saying that the "crisis has damaged the image and credibility of the EU and Germany as guarantors of European solidarity." (ANI)

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