As the coronavirus spreads globally, China’s government is working aggressively to change its international image. In the span of just a few weeks, China has gone from the embattled epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic to presenting the country as an experienced, charitable international player seeking to stem a worldwide pandemic. China has shipped medical supplies to Italy; one of its richest citizens, Jack Ma, offered to donate testing kits and face masks to the United States. China’s ambassador to the U.N. has written two letters to U.N. member states since the onset of the crisis, the latter one, from March 3, framing China as a key player in stemming the virus’ transmission. There is a darker side to this effort, however, perhaps best exemplified by Chinese diplomats amplifying conspiracy theories that suggest the virus originated in the United States, a tilt in China’s posture toward the U.S. made more stark when its Foreign Ministry announced the expulsions of American journalists from three leading U.S. newspapers.
How will these efforts affect international opinion? How is the outbreak and China’s response to it shaping the country’s standing on the global stage? —The Editors