Donating masks and shipping gear, Vietnam promotes its own coronavirus diplomacy

Vietnam questions China’s dominance over coronavirus diplomacy with donated medical supplies to Europe and Southeast Asia and even won applause from US President Donald Trump for sending coveralls protection.

China seeks to consolidate its powers as a responsible power by sharing its expertise and by giving masks and other protective equipment to countries which see an increase in cases and to repair an image dented by the disease which has appeared there. the end of last year.

Vietnam, despite its lack of resources compared to its giant neighbor, has donated 550,000 masks to France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Great Britain, 390,000 to neighboring Cambodia and 340 000 to another neighbor, Laos.

He also benefited from the purchase by the United States government of 450,000 combinations of DuPont hazardous materials manufactured in Vietnam by speeding up the shipment of protective equipment and using it to highlight his medical gifts in public statements and state media.

On Thursday, Trump thanked “our friends from Vietnam” for the shipment.

Helped by a mass quarantine and an aggressive search for contacts, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health recorded 255 cases of new coronavirus and no deaths.

Saw Duke Dam, a deputy prime minister who was widely praised for his role in leading the campaign against the coronavirus, said Monday that the epidemic was under control.

The following day, state media showed photos of European ambassadors receiving boxes of masks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam during a ceremony featuring the donation.

“Vietnam appears to have gained confidence in successfully managing the coronavirus,” said Carl Thayer, Vietnamese diplomacy expert at the Australian Defense Defense Academy in Canberra.

“As Vietnam prepares for a second wave of viruses, it is also beginning to contemplate a resumption of economic activity,” said Thayer.

The key to boosting this activity will be a long-awaited EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), said Thayer, to be approved by the Vietnamese National Assembly later this month.

Help “where it counts”

There are now 40 companies producing 7 million cloth masks a day in Vietnam, the government announced on Thursday. 5.72 million additional surgical masks can be produced daily, the statement said.

Vietnam is not the only country willing to show that it can offer support to the world, however.

Taiwan, which China claims to be its sacred territory and forbidden to most world organizations, donates 16 million masks, mainly to Europe and the United States, which makes the diplomatically isolated island of rare importance on the world stage.

The government of Taiwan, which like Vietnam has managed to maintain a low number of coronavirus cases, with only five deaths, has not established a direct link between its viral diplomacy and that of China, but wanted to show how “Taiwan can help,” especially since it can make more than 13 million masks a day.

South Korea also drew attention for its campaign against the virus and held an online presentation on Thursday outlining its containment measures for about 400 health officials and experts from 13 countries, including the United States and Mexico. and Italy.

“We receive requests from many countries to share our know-how,” an official with the South Korean foreign ministry told Reuters.

Vietnam also did not explicitly compare its viral diplomacy to that of China, but it was quick to send supplies to old allies, Laos and Cambodia, where its influence has weakened in recent years. years while that of China has increased.

Even though Vietnam needs similar equipment in its own efforts against the virus, it has donated to neighbors with large Vietnamese communities “on the basis of traditional friendship and relationships,” Reuters told Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang.

Vietnam may also push the quality of its medical supplies in light of the increasing returns of defective equipment to China, said Thayer.

The largest listed company in Vietnam, Vingroup, said last week that it would start producing up to 55,000 fans per month, including for overseas markets.

“Vietnam cannot hope to match China in volume and dollar value of its aid, but Vietnam can provide assistance where it counts,” said Thayer.