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China brazenly asked a US politician for good press – here’s what they said

Residents wear surgical masks while crossing the road in order to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 in Hong Kong. (Geovien So/SOPA Images/Zuma Press/TNS)
April 15, 2020

On two occasions since late February, Chinese diplomat Wu Ting emailed Republican Wisconsin State Senator Roger Roth, requesting Roth pass a state resolution written by Wu that praised China’s coronavirus response in an attempt to improve China’s image.

Wu’s proposed resolution included language stating China had “been effective in curbing the virus from spreading to other parts of China and the world” and has been “transparent and quick” in sharing information about the virus, the New York Times reported after reviewing the emails. The emails to Roth are just some in a continuing pattern of Chinese efforts to garner statements of praise for its handling of the pandemic, with offers of needed coronavirus supplies dangled in exchange.

“I was really taken back at the brazenness of their government to try and influence what we’re doing here,” Roth, the Wisconsin Senate President, told the New York Times.

The Wisconsin Examiner first obtained a copy of the full resolution that Wu sent to Roth. Roth said the first email came in from Wu on Feb. 26 and a second effort came on March 10 as his office worked to verify the authenticity of the request.

Roth answered the email requests with a one-word reply: “Nuts.” On March 26 he introduced a different resolution, to instead condemn the Chinese Communist Party in its handling of the virus. His resolution directly describes the efforts initiated by the Chinese government to get him to pass their more complimentary resolution.

U.S. officials told the New York Times they believe China is trying to shift coronavirus coverage from talk of the virus originating in China, to China’s efforts in providing medical supplies around the world. The officials said Chinese officials often explicitly ask their counterparts to give public thanks to China in return for the medical supply shipments.

Chinese state-run news publications have helped advance the efforts to win praise for the Chinese governments by prominently featuring stories about the Chinese aid efforts.

President Donald Trump recently spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and reportedly discussed easing back on critical remarks about the Chinese government’s handling of coronavirus in part to secure shipments of key medical supplies. Despite this apparent arrangement, Trump and other officials within his administration have continued to criticize China’s transparency regarding the virus.

During his Monday coronavirus press briefing, Trump referred to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan Virus,” a label that has drawn the ire of Chinese officials who have decried geographic descriptions of where the virus originated.

On Tuesday Trump also halted U.S. payments to the World Health Organization (WHO), following concerns it took China’s claims about the coronavirus “at face value.”

U.S. officials are reportedly responsible for delays on at least one shipment of coronavirus supplies as they continue to deliberate whether to accept the shipment and concerns doing so would only support a Chinese propaganda effort to reshape world views of the virus spread.

Criticism over defective Chinese supplies has also fueled a Chinese response requiring not only the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but also China’s National Medical Products Administration sign off on the medical supplies. The new regulations and delays in medical supplies have only added to the Trump administration’s calls for U.S. companies to move their supply chains out of China.

“One of the things that this crisis has taught us, sir, is that we are dangerously overdependent on a global supply chain,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said during a recent news conference alongside Trump. “Never again should we rely on the rest of the world for our essential medicines and countermeasures.”

Navarro previously criticized the Chinese government amid reports it blocked U.S. multinational companies like 3M and Honeywell from exporting their coronavirus protective gear to the U.S. and other countries and instead limited them to only selling their products within China.

Michael Wessell, a founding member of the federal US-China Economic and Security Review Commission told the New York Post that China deprived U.S. hospitals of needed supplies. Wessell said China’s new efforts to promote their shipments of medical supplies to other countries are designed “to try to curry goodwill with American people when some of the problems we’re facing are the direct result of Chinese policies.”