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The U.S. Needs China’s Masks, as Acrimony Grows | Press "Enter" to skip to content

The U.S. Needs China’s Masks, as Acrimony Grows

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“This is not about retribution,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We need to make sure that even today the data sets that are available to every country, including data sets that are available to the Chinese Communist Party, are made available to the whole world. It’s an imperative to keep people safe.”

Hua Chunying, the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, hit back at Mr. Pompeo on Twitter on Friday, noting that the World Health Organization had praised China’s measures.

“Stop lying through your teeth!” she wrote, using a level of invective increasingly prevalent in the bilateral relationship. “As W.H.O. experts said, China’s efforts averted hundreds of thousands of infection cases.”

China has also alluded in its rhetoric to its ability to make the masks the United States needs. “If anyone thinks made in China products are poisonous, please don’t use the face masks made in China, please don’t use protection uniforms made in China, please don’t use breathing machines made in China, so you won’t get infected,” said Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, at a news briefing on Friday.

Despite the harsh language, the two sides have reasons to cooperate. The Trump administration could face a severe backlash if its attacks on China hold back needed supplies. China faces a rising number of infections from people returning from overseas as well as a possible second wave of infections as people return to offices and factories.

The two countries already are working together behind the scenes. Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who advises the Trump administration on China, pointed to efforts underway by the American biotechnology companies Inovio Pharmaceuticals, GeoVax and Gilead Sciences to develop a coronavirus treatment in China, some in partnership with Chinese companies.

The problems go beyond the political.

Global carriers like United Airlines and Cathay Pacific have slashed international flights to near zero as countries throw up their borders. About half the world’s air cargo traveled last year in the bellies of passenger planes, said John Peyton Burnett, the managing director of TAC Index, an air cargo pricing data company in Hong Kong.


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