China's image becoming even better since pandemic: Navarre minister

By Bai Yunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/15 23:28:40

Photo: IC

The minister of economic development and business for Navarre in Spain told the Global Times he was "surprised" to see some governments and organizations hold China accountable for the coronavirus outbreak.

Minister Manu Ayerdi, who is also a member of the Parliament of Navarre, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that in Navarre people are grateful to China for "providing the most precious and generous support" in their "most difficult time."

In March, Navarre received 275 boxes of medical supplies weighing 2.7 tons which was worth 160,000 euros from its sister province Gansu in Northwest China. In addition, the local Chinese community in Navarre also made donations of protective suits and medical supplies. 

While the overall donation was not so large in terms of money, Ayerdi told the Global Times that local governments and people appreciated the help as they knew Gansu's economy is not advanced and it is one of the less-developed provinces in China.

The minister, who witnessed the whole medical cooperation process, recalled it to the Global Times. "In January, we did not expect the epidemic to hit Europe so hard. It wasn't until March that the epidemic brought a heavy blow to Europe. Starting from the week of March 9, the epidemic in Navarre became very serious. As the production capacity of facial masks in Navarre and even the whole of Spain was inadequate, our protective equipment including facial masks, gloves and protective suits were all in short supply in the early days," Ayerdi recalled.

Therefore, the Navarre government made an important decision on March 13 - to ask for help from Gansu.

It was not an easy decision to make. The Global Times learned that initially the Navarre government did not want to ask for help from Gansu as they knew the province's economy is not highly developed and they did not want to put an extra burden on Gansu. 

However, as the situation kept deteriorating and after seeing the Chinese government's support for donations to sister cities and provinces abroad, they made the decision.

"On March 13, we called the foreign affairs office of the Gansu government and told them about the grim situation Navarre was facing. Unexpectedly, we received a phone call from Gansu, telling us they had started to prepare facial masks and other protective equipment. At the same time, logistics and diplomatic preparations started immediately. These all happened several hours after we made the phone call," Ayerdi recalled.

Officials of the Gansu government also discussed several possible routes with the Navarre side and they eventually chose to transport the medical supplies from Shanghai to Spain via Russia.  

To soothe the concerns of the Navarre citizens, staff at the Gansu government also sent a short video to Ayerdi and his colleagues.

"In the video, our Chinese friends were busy with preparing aid supplies, goods were being delivered out of the warehouse and workers were labeling each box. Everyone was working on it," Ayerdi said. "I felt everything was so wonderful the moment I saw the video." 

On the night of March 31 when the medical supplies from China arrived at Navarre, it aroused attention from the local media. "People were happy and moved because at that critical moment, we were able to get such a big batch of medical supplies from Gansu, which is a great relief to us. And this was also a very beautiful moment in the friendly relations [between Navarre and Gansu]," he said.

To express thanks for the helping hand, the president of Navarre wrote a letter to Gansu.

According to a white paper released by China's State Council Information Office, China sent 29 medical expert teams to 27 countries and offered assistance to 150 countries and four international organizations as of May 31.

While the aid has received acknowledgement and thanks from many countries, some Western media outlets and certain Western politicians have claimed that China used the coronavirus for diplomatic influence and that the medical supplies China donated have quality problems. These groundless accusations put China's international image in a delicate situation.

Ayerdi told the Global Times that Navarre procured lots of medical equipment from China over the past three months and it all meet the standards of safety and treatment requirements. The Navarre government also provided procurement advice for local small-sized enterprises that lack experience in order to help them deal with the complicated market situation.

"I think the image of China in Navarre is becoming even better and this is unquestionable. This is not only due to the aid from Gansu but also because of the contributions that the Chinese community in Navarre has made. Their generosity is highly valued among Navarre citizens," the minister said. "They demonstrated to us perfectly the spirit of the Chinese people." 

Ayerdi noted he did not think the aid from Gansu is about "propaganda" for China, but rather "an expression of true friendship." He added that he was surprised to see some countries and organizations say they want to sue China over the coronavirus.

"When human beings encounter a crisis, what we should do is to face it together no matter where it first broke out," he said. "I don't understand what the purpose [of holding China accountable] is."


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