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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A growing number of reports indicate Chinese officials pushed their counterparts in Europe to make positive statements about China in order to receive shipments of medical supplies to fight the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: The revelations further taint Beijing's attempts to portray itself as a responsible and trustworthy leader in global public health.

Context: Over the past two months, numerous high-ranking government officials from countries fighting coronavirus outbreaks have offered seemingly effusive praise to China for its assistance.

  • The Italian foreign minister credited China with saving lives in Italy, the Serbian president kissed the Chinese flag as he welcomed a shipment of medical supplies on the tarmac, and the Mexican foreign minister tweeted a photo of a plane delivering Chinese aid, writing "Gracias China!!!"

What's happening: Officials in some countries are now saying there was pressure to praise Beijing.

Poland: In exchange for medical supplies, Chinese officials pressured Polish President Andrzej Duda to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to express gratitude

  • “Poland wasn’t going to get this stuff unless the phone call was made, so they could use that phone call” for propaganda purposes, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, told the New York Times.

Germany: German officials have been approached by Chinese counterparts trying to get them to make positive public statements about China’s coronavirus response and international assistance, according to German newspaper Die Welt Am Sonntag.

What they're saying: “What is most striking to me is the extent to which the Chinese government appears to be demanding public displays of gratitude from other countries; this is certainly not in the tradition of the best humanitarian relief efforts," Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations told the Times.

  • “It seems strange to expect signed declarations of thanks from other countries in the midst of the crisis.”

The big picture: A quid pro quo for vital medical aid alienates global audiences who had at first been inclined to welcome Chinese Communist Party leadership in the fight against the coronavirus.

  • "The fairly aggressive party-state effort to 'tell a good China story' actually increases public awareness that these propaganda efforts on the Chinese side are going on," Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, told Axios.
  • "They are shooting themselves in the foot by being so pushy on this."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Aug 13, 2020 - World

U.S. designates China's state-funded Confucius Institute as foreign mission

Pompeo. Photo: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

The Trump administration is designating the Chinese state-funded Confucius Institutes as "foreign missions," requiring them to provide administrative data on all personnel and property in the U.S. as if they were foreign embassies or consulates, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Critics of the Chinese culture and language program, which runs about 550 institutes around the world and 75 in the U.S., say it's a "soft power" tool used to spread Beijing's influence on college campuses.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."