Last month, Massachusetts received a shipment of more than one million N95 masks from China thanks in part to The New England Patriots. But there were a number of other players behind the delivery, including Gene Hartigan, chairman of the Afrimed Network and an adviser to the Chinese government. WGBH News' Morning Edition spoke with Hartigan about the logistics of getting much-needed personal protective equipment to the U.S. from China. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: You've been working on deals that are different than what most Americans are used to. When it comes to acquiring masks, or any products for that matter, where do you start in China? Is it about who you know?

Gene Hartigan: It is. One of my colleagues was born in China, grew up in China, went to university there and now is an American citizen [and] lives here. A lot of his classmates are people who [have] now risen to power in China. Having the ability to reach out to them, and in my 30 trips to China over the years we've been able to reach out and also to understand how they do things.

So everyone is trying to get masks out of China. Everybody's trying to get ventilators, gowns, et cetra. But we've worked closely with Ambassador Huang Ping in New York. We've also been working with the mayor of Shanghai, Mayor Gong [Zheng], and he is helping us to reach out to the manufacturers who are authorized in the agreement between the United States and China to produce things so that we're getting quality products being shipped here.

Mathieu: So, Gene, knowing who to call is one thing, cutting red tape is another. With a communist government in China, where do you begin? That is the service you're essentially providing here.

Hartigan: Well, we've dealt with them for a long time, so we understand what their protocols are. They are obviously feeling pretty diminished or upset because everybody in the world is blaming them for this. So anything they can do at this point is a point in their favor — they certainly feel that way — and any level of cooperation helps them to rebuild their reputation. Luckily, both Dr. Jason Li and I are familiar with Yang Jiechi, who is the head of the Foreign Ministry. Dr. Li is friends with the Minister of Aviation, which is what helped us do the Kraft airlift, if you want to call it that. It's a lot of behind the scenes protocol work.

Mathieu: It sounds like it, and you're working on additional deals, Gene Hartigan. Are they for hospital workers again or will they be going somewhere else in the state?

Hartigan: I never ask where the officials want to put this material, but there are projects in the works right now that would help people under the city of Boston, the city of Brockton [and] the city of Quincy. Congressman Stephen Lynch is working very hard to coordinate a delivery to the cities of Boston, Quincy and Brockton. We're just helping them to secure the right equipment, the right price and to make sure the quality of the equipment meets the standard that is required in the hospitals, in the nursing homes and wherever else this material will find its way.

Mathieu: Can I ask you to that end, how is it the Chinese seem to have so much gear of any quality when they, too, were crushed by this virus?

Hartigan: Well, you have to remember that we have 325 million people in the United States. China has 1.4 billion.

Mathieu: So it's just a capacity issue?

Hartigan: The workforce is far greater. The one thing they can do is ramp up very quickly to manufacture. And the biggest concern has been that a lot of these states — and Europe and others — who are buying materials were just buying these things. It was like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, like a bidding war, and they were grabbing people, yet some of the materials that were delivered were not quality. Gowns have different levels. Level three is the type of surgical disposable gown you need, but some people were getting level one, which is paper, and has really no value. So getting the right product and then matching it up with an air service, or in our case, we'll also be able to long term use Costco Shipping out of Shanghai that can come right to our port of Boston.

Mathieu: Are you worried about our relationship when the White House is blaming the Chinese for spreading the virus, or is this really a truly transactional relationship between our two countries?

Hartigan: I think the constant ranting and raving by the president, which serves no good purpose — and he may be doing it for political reasons — the problem is that right now the Chinese are holding the cards. They are the manufacturers. They have the leverage. And if you want to get equipment, then you've got to play ball and you have to stop attacking. Now is not the time to be trying to place blame.

Mathieu: Do you consider yourself an adviser to the Baker administration or whomever is on the American side of the equation as well as the Chinese government?

Hartigan: Well, look, whenever anybody within the governor's administration reaches out and asks for my thoughts or my help, I offer that. I don't think of myself as an adviser. I happen to think of myself as my colleague, Dr. Li, as a resource. We're here, and if we can help the economy, help the people, help save lives and help the hospitals, then we're there to do that.