Why did multiple countries receive substandard Chinese medical equipment?

“Don’t sensationalize mask quality dispute,” reads the headline of a Global Times editorial that is being recirculated by the People’s Daily. Noting that “more than one European country recently claimed that Chinese products failed to meet quality standards,” but only citing the example of the Dutch government recalling masks from China, the editorial continues:

Theoretically, there is a possibility that some of China’s aid and exported medical goods don’t meet standards. Foreign orders are large and urgent, but not all Chinese manufacturers specialize in this industry. Some have been temporarily converted to production. Coupled with the fact that standards in different countries are inconsistent and it’s hard to coordinate at such a critical juncture, the issue has become particularly complicated.

This explanation for substandard equipment is surprisingly reasonable, for an editorial from the often-teeth-gnashing Global Times. A New York Times report suggests the same cause: “Companies big and small that once manufactured other items are now in the business of making anti-coronavirus gear — and regulators in China are struggling to enforce standards while encouraging the flow.”

However, it wouldn’t be a Global Times editorial without a threat of nationalistic anger tossed in somewhere. In this case: “If public opinion in relevant countries makes a big deal of the quality disputes, this could easily be seen as deliberate provocation by the Chinese public.”

More on “mask diplomacy,” and controversies in the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic, and the Philippines:

—Lucas Niewenhuis