Some are calling it "Mask Diplomacy" – Chinese shipments of much needed medical equipment pouring into capitals around the world. Experts say it's part of an unprecedented campaign to change the coronavirus narrative.
The Chinese government is working overtime to make the world forget that it was responsible for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, and to sell the idea that China is the hero that is saving the world.
A Chinese video making the rounds on social media says, "In many movies, one single American has saved the world. However, in reality, when the (sic) mankind (sic) facing a big crisis, it is China who stands out and save (sic) the world."
— Amir Tsarfati (@BeholdIsrael) March 30, 2020
Web analysis by the firm Alkemy shows China flooded Italy with Twitter bots in March claiming that Italy was grateful for Chinese help. One Chinese video distributed widely in China in which Italians were supposedly thanking China was actually video of Italians thanking Italian medical workers.
But some in the western media have bought the Chinese propaganda, with NBC saying China has asserted "itself as the global leader."
Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy says China is "getting some help from American media outlets and others in amplifying and legitimating this false narrative."
Alessandra Bocchi, a freelance journalist based in Rome wrote in the Wall Street Journal that at least some of China's aid to Italy was actually sales of surplus supplies China doesn't need anymore.
"First of all, the reason why there's a shortage of masks now in Western countries is because they were all shipped to China at the beginning of the outbreak," Bocchi said, "And second of all, they're not actually donating those masks in many cases."
Bocchi blames China for the severity of the outbreak in Italy.
"Why didn't China, as the outbreak started, warn Italy of how severe this was going to be?" Bocchi asked. "Why did it only come to Italy's rescue when it was so bad that the country had to plead for help?"
But emboldened by the success of its propaganda campaign, China is now lecturing the US on its response to COVID-19. In an English language commentary distributed globally, a Chinese news anchor says, "As of March 27, the US has overtaken China as the country with the most number of positive cases."
"All this could have been avoided."