Lack of Protective Masks Shows Lesson the World Needs to Learn

By Diana Zhang
Diana Zhang
Diana Zhang
Diana Zhang, Ph.D., is a staff writer with 20 years’ experience in the study of China. Based in the United States, she uses a pen name to protect her family members in China.
April 7, 2020Updated: April 13, 2020


In early February, friends and I were looking for protective masks in stores in New York, while thinking of our friends and family in China. We couldn’t find masks in any store in the city, including small stores, clinics, and chain stores such as CVS and Walgreens.

When I called a few friends in other areas, it was clear that all over the United States, protective masks had flown off the shelves. We then heard of the same situation in Europe. Some people traveled from Spain to France and other countries, and couldn’t find masks. It was worrisome. What if the virus hit here in the United States?

After Wuhan was locked down, a large number of medical supplies went to China, including a large quantity of masks, according to Chinese customs reports. Within a week of the lockdown, from Jan. 24 to Jan. 30, 56 million masks went into China, and by Feb. 11, that number rose to 730 million masks. By Feb. 29, the number of imported masks reached 2 billion.

The Chinese state mobilized companies big and small to shop for masks worldwide, including the Shanghai-government-owned Greenland Holdings Corp., Alibaba, Tencent, China Railway Construction, and others.

Two Chinese real estate companies, Greenland and Risland, had their employees secure more than 100 tons of masks, thermometers, antibacterial wipes, gloves, and other related products in January and February and ship them to China.

Many Chinese associations overseas also started buying masks to send to China. Before long, individuals and organizations in the United States could no longer get masks because big companies had sourced them all.

In addition, 62 countries donated medical supplies and masks to China.

Japan, for example, even used their emergency reserve to ship to Wuhan, while the United States shipped 18 tons of medical supplies to China in early February. By Feb. 29, the production of masks in China jumped to be able to turn out 116 million units daily, as about 15,500 companies retooled equipment to make the items.

By the time the situation in China began to improve and the virus began its spread to the rest of the world, other countries didn’t have enough masks, even to supply hospitals.

Taking Advantage

That created a major profit-making opportunity, as some of the masks donated to China have been sold back to Western countries.

Meanwhile, the Philippines, Turkey, Spain, and the Czech Republic ordered large quantities of testing kits from China. Because the accuracy rate of these kits turned out to be anywhere between 20 percent to 40 percent, they gave up using them. The Netherlands ordered 1.3 million masks, but their quality was poor, and the masks were returned.

With China controlling most of the world’s mask production and inventory, this is a rare opportunity to bring Western countries to their knees. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is ready to make a small donation to play the role of “savior,” make a big profit, and demand whatever it needs.

Quietly controlling the mask market, the CCP is ready to leave the United States in a “chaotic ocean of virus,” in the words of the state-run Global Times. The outlet reported that “China could ban the export of face masks and other medical gear to America” as a response to the United States restricting the sales of technology by Huawei.

A contact of mine, an American living in a northern city in China, shared with me his own experience:

“I’ve been trying to buy masks for people I know back in America. A Chinese friend approached me to sell me masks. He explained to me that the government is buying most of the masks from the larger mask factories and controlling the sale of masks. He explained that he can’t sell to me directly, but he can arrange to trade raw material from his factory to another factory and that factory can then send me masks.

“At first, it sounded like some weird black market scheme, but he explained that, that is the only way to sell Americans masks right now. He claims that the larger factories are all being limited or denied the ability to sell masks or ANY other equipment that might help with the virus to America right now. ”


The CCP is shocked that Western countries aren’t requiring everyone to wear masks. In China, everyone is required to wear them outside of the home or else the police can take you away.

In fact, most Chinese in crowded cities such as New York live in high-rise buildings, while most Americans have single-family homes. Americans truly do not have the same environment and same needs as Chinese. The World Health Organization helps China at each and every step, now suggesting that Western countries should use masks. It will help China in a big way if countries such as the United States take that advice.

Now, the CCP has realized that it has an oversupply of masks. They don’t have enough countries buying them, especially as there are so many reports about the poor quality and questionable sanitation.


While much of the world is in lockdown and hospitals are struggling to locate medical supplies, there is one place where people are still living a normal life: Taiwan. Unlike in many other countries, Taiwan’s schools are still open. My friend, who works in a restaurant, told me there is a limitation of four people per table; people wear masks in crowded subways. Other than that, life goes on without interruption.

Taiwan learned a lesson from SARS and from many years of dealing with the CCP’s lies. In early January, when the CCP said “there is no human-to-human transmission,” Taiwan started to guard its border and blocked the export of masks. Then, Taiwan’s government bought equipment for 60 production lines to make masks, with a goal to produce 10 million a day within a few months. The total population in Taiwan is 23 million.

When Taiwan wanted to fly its citizens back from Wuhan, China—where the outbreak began—the CCP initially refused. On the first flight after officials relented, China added three people at the last minute to the passenger list. They included two with symptoms and one confirmed positive with the CCP virus.

If the CCP does this to Chinese people in Taiwan, what is it capable of doing to the rest of the world’s people?

Taiwan now is a shining example, because they understand the CCP.

The CCP’s handling of the global mask supply is a big lesson about what the Party is like—one of many such lessons we’ve had in the past. Are we learning?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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