Throughout Romania, China has spread the same propaganda topics used internationally: China is not guilty for the spread of the pandemic, China notified the occurrence of COVID-19 on time, that China’s methods of fighting against the coronavirus were correct (and do not breach or limit human rights), China is being attacked by other great powers (especially by the US) due to ideological reasons and China is supporting many countries around the globe with sanitary materials and the experience of its doctors.
China’s main communication channel in Romania was the Facebook channel of the Embassy of China. The priority of the Embassy of China in Romania was to present as much evidence as possible regarding the Romanian-Chinese cooperation during the pandemics.
However, unlike the surrounding countries (Moldova, Hungary, Serbia and others), in Romania, China’s advertising success was moderate, because no senior government official accepted to take part in photo sessions with China’s representatives (in Serbia and Moldavia, for example, the state presidents where themselves present at the arrival of medical materials from China in their countries, while in Hungary, the Prime Minister was the one to attend).
Arafat, the frontman
The most important Romanian official with which the Embassy of China in Romania was able to take pictures was Raed Arafat, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Health and chief of the body managing emergency situations in Romania.
The event took place on the 15th of April, and pictures was accompanied by a short text on the Facebook page of the Embassy of China in Romania: “The ceremony of handing over the medical materials for the fight against Covid-19 offered by Huawei Romania to the Government of Romania took place today 15th of April, at an ISU-subordinated unit.”
The second most important character, in terms of notoriety, in Romania, with which the Chinese ambassador took a picture was Gabriela Firea, the mayor of Bucharest, as shown in a post of 21st of March: “On the 21st of March, Her Excellency Mrs. Ambassador Jiang Yu attended the ceremony organized in the honour of donation granted by Chinese communities and enterprises to the Bucharest city hall. Mrs Ambassador thanked for the donation and said that the proverb <a friend in need, a friend indeed> reflects the relations of our countries, as friends and partners.
I believe that the brave Romanians will defeat the virus, and the Chinese people will stand alongside the Romanian people. The Mrs. also mentioned that in the video of the ALLEGRETTO Group of Romania offering a musical gift to the Chinese people fighting against the coronavirus epidemic has had over 30 million views.”
On the 30th of April, the Embassy of China mentioned on Facebook the donations towards the City Hall of the 2nd District: “Today, donations of sanitary materials, together with best wishes from the City Hall of Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, have arrived at the City Hall of the 2nd District of Bucharest Municipality. Let’s fight this challenge together, with love and courage!”
On the 22nd of April, the donations towards Mioveni were mentioned: “Today, after a long journey, over 50 boxes of medical supplies donated by the City Hall of Jinhua, Zhejiang province for the City Hall of Mioveni, Arges County, have finally reached their destination. Only together we can prevail!!”
Ploiești and Prahova were “attacked” on the 21st of April: “In the past days, the donations made by the Harbin city, Heilongjiang province, for the city of Ploiesti, Prahova county and by the Lanzhou city, Gansu province, for the city of Alba Iulia, Alba county, arrived successfully in Romania. All materials will be used in the fight against COVID-19. Best health to all!”
On the 6th of April, a donation arrived in Tulcea: “At the end of last week, a donation of 40.000 protective masks from Suzhou arrived in Tulcea County, which is twinned with Suzhou Municipality of the People’s Republic of China.”
On the 3rd of April it was Alba county’s turn: “On the 3rd of April, in the name of the Gansu province, Her Excellency Mrs. Ambassador Jiang Yu has transferred 120 boxes of materials for the prevention of the epidemic caused by Covid-19, which include protective suit, N95 masks and surgical masks to the Alba County Council, the county of Alba being twinned with Gansu Province the People’s Republic of China.”
Huawei has sent donations to Suceava on the 1st of April: “Today, Suceava County Council received a donation including 20000 masks, 100 disinfectant bottles, 2000 pcs. tableware made by Huawei Romania.? Come on, Romania!!”
The real goal
On the 25th of March, the Embassy showed what kind of reception would China actually want, by posting on Facebook pictures with the Hungarian Prime Minister, the Serbian President and the Czech authorities, with the message: “Leaders of Hungary, Serbia and Czech Republic welcome Chinese plane with COVID-19 supplies.”
The second type of collaboration between China and Romania presented by the Embassy in Bucharest was that of video conferences between Romanian and Chinese doctors.
The most recent took place on the 14th of April: “On the 14th of April, through a video conferencing system, the specialized medical personnel of Mioveni Arges had a dialogue with medical specialists in Jinhua Zhejiang, as an exchange of experience on the topic of COVID-19.”
In March, “Physicians from Deva, Hunedoara and Yancheng, Jiangsu China began consultations on the topic of COVID-19, in an online conference”, according to the Embassy of China in Bucharest.
However, the messages issued by the representatives of the Chinese diplomatic mission in Bucharest were not always positive. In fact, they sometimes were manipulative or downright offensive. For example, on the 25th of March, the Embassy posted on Facebook a YouTube video, accompanied by the message “Did COVID-19 come from US?”.
On the 8th of April, the Chinese Embassy did something even more interesting: it threatened Romania with the failure to observe the unitary character of the state, in a post regarding Taiwan. Here are the most relevant fragments: “Recently, a few Romanian mass-media sources have reported on the prevention and control of Covid-19 epidemic in Taiwan, stating that the absence of Taiwan from the World Health Assembly might affect the public health of Taiwan and of the world. (…)
In October 1971, the 26th UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2758, restoring all the legitimate rights of the People’s Republic of China in the UN and removing <the representative> of Taiwanese authorities. Romania was a co-initiator of that resolution and we will never forget the just position held by Romania. Currently, over 180 countries, including Romania, are firmly observing the principle of <one China>. (…) The problem of Taiwan is related to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the P.R. of China and is connected to China’s core interests. We firmly oppose any attempt to divide China under any pretext, to any effort of creating <one China, one Taiwan> or <two Chinas>.
Romania also has a strong concern regarding sovereignty and territorial integrity, therefore our two governments and our people can understand and support each other in such matters. I am sure that the Romanian people would not accept anybody raising questions regarding the Romania’s sovereignty and territorial issues. Do as you would be done by. Let’s hope that the Romanian mass-media will observe the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the P.R. of China, just as we observe that of Romania.”
However, before getting down to threats, China is more concerned of sending the message that “China and Romania are working together to fight against COVID-19”: “The Chinese nation is a grateful nation. We will never stand aside when a friend has certain difficulties, nor will we seek personal gain when lending a helping hand. At a time when the epidemiological situation of Romania is getting worse, China has acted swiftly to offer support to Romania, while its own task of preventing and controlling the epidemics remains a difficult one.” (post made public on the 29th of April)
Love and peace
Furthermore, everything is based solely on peace and friendship (also a post made public on the 29th of April): “The virus knows no borders, and the environment is the same for everybody. China will continue establishing its cooperation with other countries, including Romania, in the field of common cross-border prevention and control and will continue to offer support, within the limits of its capabilities, to countries in need. As long as a country is still threatened by the epidemic, we should continuously work together to fight the epidemic.
In the current situation, national and ethnic political systems and ideologies should not become obstacles in the path of cooperation. As long as we maintain the vision of a human community, with a common destiny for the human race, we will be able to take more concrete actions, instead of making empty accusations, and we will work together in order to fight the epidemic, we will help the sun of cooperation fight off the fog of the epidemic and brighten our earth.”
The messages of the Chinese Embassy were retrieved and promoted by certain Romanian journalists.
The Russian tools
However, the case of the Kremlinist propaganda carried out by Sputnik was on a whole new level: the attachment of China to Russia and transformation of the two neighbouring countries in the alternative to the backsliding west, which did not help Italy, a state which was terribly affected.
Thus, on 6th of May, Sputnik published an article which reads as follows: “The confidence of the Italians in the EU is collapsing: China and Russia are considered friends”, while the text said that “The trust of the Italian people in European institutions has collapsed, and among the countries which they see as friends, ranked first are Russia and China, according to a survey recently carried out by SWG Research Institute, a prestigious Italian public opinion research institute. (…)
The survey reflects a considerable closeness of the Italians to China, which is preferred as an ally, instead of USA, its historical partner. Thus, 36% of the Italian people consider China a preferable international partner, whereas only 30% chose the USA”.
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