China’s ‘mask diplomacy’ wins support in Eastern Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Some Eastern European countries like Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic are praising China for its shipments of medical aid amid the coronavirus pandemic, while also playing down assistance they have received from the European Union. China has been criticized in the West for its early mishandling of the health crisis due to politically motivated foot-dragging. Now it is seeking to change perceptions through what has been dubbed “mask diplomacy.” That’s a combination of soft power policy, political messaging and aid shipments designed to portray Beijing as a generous and efficient ally. That message has found fertile ground in places like Serbia and Hungary, whose leaders nurture close ties with Beijing and Moscow.