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A Chinese spokesperson wrote on Twitter:

As of Apr. 20, China had provided the US with over 2.46 bn masks, meaning 7 masks for each in the US, plus nearly 5,000 ventilators & many others. Hope that could save more lives.
Hua Chunying 华春莹 via Twitter

As per the comments, the timeframe is relevant. The tweet was made during the coronavirus pandemic, so I feel it's natural to interpret it as implying these masks should be useful for combating COVID-19. So masks during or prior to 2019 should not be included.

The claim is repeated by the Xinhua news agency, which continued: In recent weeks, China's daily output of face masks has skyrocketed to 100 million masks. The New York Times (April 11) also reported a daily production of 116 million, and said this about exports:

Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesman, said at the ministry’s daily news briefing on Friday that from March 1 through April 4, China exported 3.86 billion masks, 2.8 million coronavirus test kits, 2.4 million infrared thermometers and 16,000 ventilators.

This makes it sound like these mask imports took place in recent weeks or months. I didn't immediately find evidence either way.

Question: In response to COVID-19, as of 20 April 2020, has China provided the US with over 2.46 billion masks?


Update: Similar claims have been made by other Chinese spokespersons:

...China has provided the U.S. with 1.864bn masks...
Cui Tiankai, via Twitter, 21 April 2020

...China has provided the U.S. with: - 1.864 bln masks...
Geng Shuang, quoted by CGTN via Twitter, 20 April 2020

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    Since when? If it's counting every mask in the past 20 years, it's probably correct, but not "notable". – Daniel R Hicks Apr 27 '20 at 1:52
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    I guess they "gave them back" (joking) skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/47236/… – Fizz Apr 27 '20 at 2:13
  • Would you be willing to look through the answers and maybe leave some comments on what else you'd like to see? – Barry Harrison Jul 10 at 4:29
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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, no, China has not provided the US with ~2.5 billion masks. This article clearly shows the records of the imports, with mask imports from China actually decreasing by 20% from February, 2019. Interestingly, it is actually quite the opposite with the US providing China with ~$15 million worth of masks than usual.

However, it could be possible that this China has sold 2.5 billion masks to the US, but not just due to the outbreak. The same source shows that in the previous decade, the US bought roughly $21.6 billion of masks, which could be the origins of this 2.46 billion number.

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I hope this is helpful, please let me know if you want any clarification.

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    "decreasing by 20%" from when till when? (I see it says it's prolly due to the trade war and the 15% tariff, so that might provide a rough time frame.) – Fizz Apr 28 '20 at 5:37
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    Also "China is the world’s biggest exporter of medical face masks. It produced about half of the world’s $11.7 billion supply in 2018 alone, the United Nations’ latest trade data shows. And the U.S. has long been its biggest customer. " So I strongly doubt the US bought only $1.8 billion over a decade. I cannot find the 1.8 figure in the article you linked. – Fizz Apr 28 '20 at 5:42
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    What graph? I don't see any graphs in the article. – Fizz Apr 28 '20 at 6:59
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    The same graphs are here and here – Brian Z Apr 28 '20 at 13:51
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    Is it not feasible that masks imports spiked by a factor of 10 in March and early April? – Oddthinking Apr 28 '20 at 16:51
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In response to COVID-19, as of 20 April 2020, has China provided the US with over 2.46 billion masks?

No.

Here is a report published by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think tank. The think tank based their analysis on data released by the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China (GACC), a government agency responsible for all imports and exports in China.

According to the report, the US imported 69,963 kg of face masks from China in March and April of 2020, when the coronavirus started spreading to the US in earnest (Table 2/Tabelle 2). This is a 31% increase over 2019. To have imported 2.46 billion face masks requires that each mask weigh less than 0.028 grams. Needless to say, face masks weigh over a gram each. (Here's a company with face masks that weigh 3.5 g each.)

(Of course, face masks differ depending on manufacturer. Assuming a face mask is made of polypropylene fabric weighing 65 grams per square meter, and not accounting for non-filtering components such as the straps of the mask, each face mask can only be 4.375 square centimeters in order for 69,963 kg of face masks to equal 2.46 billion face masks. Think of something 2 centimeters wide (like your thumb) and 2 centimeters long. That's about how big each mask would be.)

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