China has offered assistance to India to respond to the pandemic, and after a statement of concern by Foreign Minister Wang Yi with an expression of support, many Chinese social media users have urged similar help for Nepal.
Indeed, Beijing seems to be responding. A Nepal Airlines plane is flying to Beijing on Monday night to bring China’s offer of 20,000 oxygen cylinders and other medical essentials, as Nepal’s hospitals struggle to cope with the seriously ill. A similar flight last month brought back 800,000 doses of the Chinese VeroCell vaccine donated by China.
Nepal’s vaccination program has ground to a halt after an early promising start after India stopped further export of the Covishield AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute even though Nepal had already paid for 2 million doses.
Social media posts here quote the Chinese saying ‘A close friend is better than a distant relative’, but others have also urged Nepal to improve its governance and delivery instead of just depending on the outside world for help.
One Chinese social media post notes: ‘The spread of Covid-19 will make China a ‘thin horse’ so it should not just give assistance for free.” The growing debate on China’s foreign assistance, both at policy-making level and on social media, hints that countries like Nepal should focus more on early preparedness and control as most other countries grapple with their own Covid-19 crisis.
Aneka Rebecca Rajbhandari studies political science at Peking University. Raunab Singh Khatri is a graduate student in economics at Yenching Academy of Peking University.